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GOP side set on deficit super committee

Senate Democrats named to deficit-reduction 'Super Congress' committee

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington will be co-chair of the Congressional super committee charged with coming up with longer-term debt solutions later this year.

Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Max Baucus of Montana are the other Democrats selected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The Democratic trio is the first group named to the 12-member special panel created as part of the debt ceiling agreement. The so-called Super Congress is charged with coming up a plan to cut an additional $1.2 from the federal deficit over the next 10 years.

In addition to the Senate Democrats, the special committee will include three Senate Republicans, three Republican Representatives and three Democrats from the House. One of the GOP House members will serve as the other co-chair alongside Murray.

All members of the officially named Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction are to be empanelled by Aug. 16. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is said to be close to naming his panel picks.

Panel rules: Although the minimum deficit reduction target per the debt ceiling deal is $1.2 trillion, there's hope that the bipartisan committee can trim closer to $1.5 trillion from the deficit. But there's no cap on how much can be cut.

What is spelled out is the timetable and procedure.

The special deficit committee will have until Nov. 23 to present their plan to the full Congress.

If at least seven of the 12 vote for a final proposal, that legislation gets fast-track Congressional consideration. That means that simple majority votes in both the House and Senate (no chance of filibuster in this chamber) would send that deficit legislation to the president for signature. 

The House and Senate have until Dec. 23 to act on the super committee's proposal.

If, however, an agreement on a deficit reduction plan cannot be reached, predetermined cuts would be triggered. The budget slashing would be distributed evenly among the Pentagon's budget, something the GOP doesn't want to see, and entitlement programs that the Dems want to preserve.

What voters want: America is looking for the panel and the rest of their colleagues on Capitol Hill to work together on the deficit issue.

Gallup released a poll today that shows Americans clearly want their elected representatives in Washington to reach a compromise on the next step in the efforts to reduce the federal deficit. While the relatively small segment of the population that supports the Tea Party favors holding out for a plan they agree with, a majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats mandate compromise.

The poll respondents also clearly want taxes on the table.

When asked by Gallup about potential approaches the special committee may consider to reduce federal debt, a majority of Americans support increasing taxes on higher-income Americans, increasing tax revenues by making major changes to the current federal tax code and cutting federal programs other than Medicare, Social Security and defense.

Less than half support the idea of cutting either defense spending or Medicare and Social Security costs as a way to reduce the deficit. That means, Representatives and Senators, the voters don't want you to fall back on the deficit-cutting trigger mechanism.

A look at the panelists: Reid's Super Congress selections were somewhat of a surprise.

There had been speculation that the Senate Democratic leader would appoint colleagues who had already worked on deficit reduction measures via their service as part of the presidentially-appointed Bowles-Simpson panel or the Gang of Six Congressional budget/deficit group.

Reid did find one member from this category, but otherwise he opted to spread the deficit reduction responsibility (blame?) around.

Reid's picks also are notable in that two of the Senators he chose have previously indicated they will look at spending cuts that are controversial within their own party, as well as tax revenues as a way to reduce the federal deficit.

Here's a quick look at the three Senate Democrats on the special committee.

Patty Murray: This Washington State lawmaker is viewed as a loyal lieutenant who's been a strong advocate for the entitlement programs at the core of the deficit debate, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. She's also been a Senate leader in seeking more help for veterans.

However, Murray has sent mixed signals on entitlement programs. During a campaign debate last year, she refused to take a position on whether she'd support or rule out cuts to Social Security, including an increase in the retirement age. And earlier this year Murray joined dozens of her Democratic colleagues in signing a letter that urged the president to consider "discretionary budget cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform" to reduce the budget deficit.

Murray is a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations committees.

John Kerry: Kerry is probably best known for the jobs he didn't get. He was the unsuccessful 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and he didn't get the Secretary of State position that many presumed he would get as a consolation prize. He is, however, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations and the Finance committees.

The Massachusetts Senator also has included has called for "a serious dialogue about our fiscal situation, discretionary spending, entitlements and revenues. We need a long-term solution to reduce both our current budget deficit and our staggering debt."

Max Baucus: The Montanan is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and a long-time advocate of tax reform. He's also got a reputation for being able to work across party lines.

Baucus was part of the president's deficit commission, aka the Bowles-Simpson group, but he voted against the final Bowles-Simpson proposal in part because it would hurt his largely rural home state of Montana by raising gasoline prices.

Baucus' main opposition to that previous deficit plan, however, was due to its proposed cuts in benefits for the elderly and veterans. He also opposed George W. Bush's effort to privatize Social Security and is a critic of a House Republican plan to privatize Medicare for future retirees.

Who else? As for the rest of the panel, here are the front-runners, with the caveat question. When was the last time a member of Congress did what was predicted or expected?

The Republican Senate favorites to be selected by McConnell are said to be Jon Kyl of Arizona, Rob Portman of Ohio and Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

Across the Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is said to be considering Democrats Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, Xavier Becerra of California and Norm Dicks of Washington. Dicks, however, might be off the list given Murray's appointment on the Senate Democratic side.

And House Speaker John Boehner, who will name the other Super Congress co-chair, is reportedly favoring conservative Republican budget darling Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, David Camp of Michigan, Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Peter Roskam of Illinois. Ryan and Camp were on Simpson-Bowles, but didn't vote for the chairmen's final proposal.

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