Where do those charged with deficit reduction stand on the issues?
Within the next month, members of the “Super Committee” established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 must draft a deficit reduction proposal that will reduce the nation’s deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
The committee, formally known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, includes six Democrats and six Republicans from both houses of Congress. It is co-chaired by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).
Although the committee has no upward limit on savings, failure to reach an agreement will automatically trigger $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts, including $10 billion to $15 billion in Medicare cuts, as mandated by the Budget Control Act.
Compromise will not be easy. Many of those on the “Super Committee” have pledged to adhere to their respective party’s policies—no new taxes on the right and no sweeping entitlement reforms on the left. In addition, all but two of the committee members have served for at least two decades in Congress or in senior legislative or executive branch positions, and no senators from the bipartisan Gang of Six were chosen to sit on the committee.
Although the committee will probably not reach a deal until hours before the final deadline, the alternative—mandated across-the-board cuts in domestic and military spending—will likely compel the two parties to put partisanship aside and reach a balanced agreement.
AAOS Now gives you the opportunity to meet the members of the “Super Committee.”
The three Republican Senators are Sens. Jon Kyle (Ariz.), Rob Portman (Ohio), and Patrick Toomey (Pa.).
Sen. Kyl is the second-ranking Republican in the Senate and the Republican Whip. A member of the Senate Finance Committee, he has worked with Democrats to pass tax and trade legislation, including reducing the estate tax. He was a member of the “Biden Group,” but disagreed with those who favored revenue increases. A staunch conservative, he has taken positions against abortion, immigration, and arms control. He plans to retire at the end of this term.
Sen. Portman brings extensive financial and budgeting experience to the committee. Although only a freshman Senator, he was a former U.S. trade representative, White House budget director under President George W. Bush, and co-author of a Republican jobs proposal. While in the House, he represented the 2nd District of Ohio for 12 years and served on the House Ways and Means Committee. He favors some revenue increases, lower tax rates, and reforming the Internal Revenue Service. He is viewed as a team player and is well liked by members from both sides of the political aisle.
Sen. Toomey is an anti-tax, pro-business, tea-party Republican. A former U.S. Representative for the 15th Congressional District, he is best known for serving as president of the economically conservative group, Club for Growth, before running for public office.
The ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance Subcommittee, he also serves on the Senate Budget, Banking, Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Joint Economic committees. He favors a small federal government, free market policies, and the enactment of a balanced budget amendment. Although his economic policies often position him far to the right of the political center, Sen. Toomey is considered a moderate on certain issues and has forged relationships with Democrats to champion issues such as banning earmarks in appropriations bills.
Joining Sen. Murray on the committee are Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.) and John Kerry (Mass.).
Co-chair of the committee, Sen. Murray is the fourth-ranking Democratic Senator and a party loyalist. She currently chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. A longtime member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she favors federal earmark spending as well as government spending on veterans, seniors, and the poor.
Sen. Baucus is considered a moderate and has significant finance and budgeting experience. He was a member of President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission and chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which handles Medicare and tax policy, two issues high on the committee’s priority list.
Sen. Baucus has frequently worked with Republicans to pass legislation and is likely to play a key role in developing a plan. He opposes privatizing entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, something that many budget-conscious Republicans view as vital to reduce the deficit. He also played a key role in authoring the Senate version of the healthcare reform bill and is a defender of budget-ballooning earmarks.
Although better known for his foreign policy expertise, Sen. Kerry has a good background in finance. He serves on the Senate Finance Committee and has chaired the Senate Small Business Committee. Unlike many Democrats, he favors a balanced budget amendment, voted for welfare reform in the 1990s, and voted to extend the Bush tax cuts. He believes that committee members must work together to craft a proposal that includes both budget cuts and revenue increases.
The three Republican members of the House on the committee are cochair Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton, both of Michigan.
Rep. Hensarling is the fourth-ranking House Republican. A party loyalist, he serves as Republican Conference Chairman and formerly led the House Republican Study Committee, which is responsible for establishing policy and strategy. He favors substantial entitlement reform, lower taxes, and a ban on earmark spending. He has proposed capping federal spending at 20 percent of the size of the U.S. economy every year. He voted against both the $700 billion financial bailout bill and the healthcare reform bill.
Rep. Camp is considered a moderate Republican. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a former member of the Obama deficit panel, he has experience in tax policy. Although he refused to consider the Ryan budget proposal in committee, he does favor privatizing entitlement programs and believes the U.S. tax code should be reformed with lower rates that would apply to more individual and corporate taxpayers. Rep. Camp has been viewed as a team player in years past, forging deals with Democrats to pass the 1996 welfare reform bill and the 2003 prescription-
Rep. Upton chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is known for using his position to attempt to dismantle regulations imposed by the federal government. He voted for the Republican “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill and favors a scaled-back federal government. Rep. Upton has broken ranks with his party on issues related to defense and the 2009 auto bailouts. He supports the enactment of a balanced budget amendment, the repeal of healthcare reform, and U.S. tax code reforms.
The three Democratic Representatives on the committee are Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), James Clyburn (S.C.), and Chris Van Hollen (Md.).
Rep. Becerra is the vice-chair of the House Democratic Caucus and the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee. He served on President Obama’s deficit commission, opposes cuts to entitlement programs, and believes tax revenues are vital to any deficit-reduction plan. Rep. Becerra recently broke ties with his party by voting against raising the debt ceiling because the bill failed to repeal the Bush tax cuts.
Rep. Clyburn is considered a loyal liberal and serves as an adviser to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. As a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee, he was selected by House Democrats to be a member of the “Biden Group,” a bipartisan deficit reduction task force established this summer. Although he opposes cuts to entitlement benefits, he supports payment cuts to doctors and hospitals. Like the other House Democrats on the committee, Rep. Clyburn believes a deficit proposal should include revenue increases and end the Bush tax cuts.
Rep. Van Hollen formerly chaired the House Democratic Campaign Committee and is considered a hardnosed Democrat. Currently the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, he vehemently opposed the Ryan Budget Plan. His budget expertise gained him a spot at the table during the budget talks, where he stressed the need for a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts; he is expected to defend entitlement programs and tax increases for the wealthy.
Madeleine Lovette is communications specialist in the AAOS office of government relations. She can be reached at email@example.com