Congressional leaders have completed their appointments to the 12-member supercommitee equally split between the House and Senate, between Democrats and Republicans who generally reflect party ideology. The mix has skeptics questioning whether the panel will be able to rise above the partisanship to recommend further reductions in the national debt.
Its a lot of the same players who have been voting no on compromises or failing to agree to compromise this year, said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a budget watchdog group.
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was created by this months agreement to raise the debt ceiling by $2 trillion coupled with $917 trillion in spending cuts. The committee has until Nov. 23 to find ways to reduce the deficit by another $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
Any plan submitted to Congress will face an up or down vote there before Christmas. Failing that automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion in defense and domestic programs will take place over the next decade. However, it will take a majority or seven members to approve a plan, but even that will prove difficult given the panels composition. Panel members have been described as team players loyal to their party leadership.
Four of the committee members Sen. Max Baucus, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Rep. Xavier Becerra and Rep. Dave Camp served on the last years bipartisan debt-reduction commission created by President Obama. It drafted a plan to lower spending by $4 trillion through entitlement cuts and tax hikes, but it could not get the supermajority needed to send it to Congress. The four supercommitee appointees voted against the plan.
Sen. John Kyl of Arizona is the GOPs No. 2 man in the Senate and is viewed as a staunch conservative. Republicans in both chambers have steadfastly opposed tax hikes. Sen. Pat Toomey won election with the back of the tea party, which as been instrumental in shaping GOP anti-tax policies.
On the Democratic side, Sen John Kerry from Massachusetts is expected to oppose cuts to entitlement programs. Sen. Patty Murrays appointment has drawn criticism. The only woman on the panel, she will serve as co-chair but critics see a potential conflict of interest with her role as chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
No wonder then that even noncommittal comments such as that from Rep. Camp, who said he would not rule anything in or out and everything is on the table, are taken as a hopeful sign for a possible compromise.