In the aftermath of the debt-ceiling debate, Congressional leaders have formally appointed members to the deficit reduction "supercommittee," the group created in the compromise legislation to identify trillions in budget savings over the next 10 years.
The "Budget Control Act of 2011" called for top leaders in each party to appoint three members to the 12-member supercommittee to identify and recommend an additional $1.2 trillion or more in deficit reduction by November 23, 2011. The bill also includes a provision that allows for fast-track floor procedures in both chambers by December 23, 2011. If the supercommittee fails to report a bill by the November 23, or if either chamber fails to act within a month after the deadline, the supercommittee loses its privileges.
On the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was the first to make his appointments last week. In a speech delivered on the Senate floor, Reid named Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chair Patty Murray (D-WS), Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MN) and former presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA).
"The Joint Select Committee has been charged with forging the balanced, bipartisan approach to deficit reduction that the American people, the markets and the ratings agencies like Standard & Poor's are demanding," Reid said. "To achieve that goal, I have appointed three senators who each possess an expertise in budget matters, a commitment to a balanced approach and a track record of forging bipartisan consensus."
Following Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered his choices, which included Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), former White House Associate Counsel and Director of the Office of Legislative, as well as Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).
Neither leader selected anyone involved with the "Gang of Six" talks, which sought to forge consensus on debt reduction months ago. Members of that group included Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Tom Coburn (R-OK).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) finalized the group by announcing their choices later in the week. Boehner tapped Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI), Dave Camp (R-MI) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). Pelosi selected veterans, naming Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and James Clyburn (D-SC).
The Blue Dog Coalition, comprised of moderate Democrats, sent a letter to the supercommittee members urging them to seek a centrist solution to the nation's fiscal issues.
"As you prepare for your post on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, we urge you to work with your colleagues to achieve a balanced, bipartisan solution that will control our nation's debt and ensure that the United States remains the leader in the world economy," the letter said. "As policy makers, we have a clear choice in front of us: pursue a partisan approach that caters to the political extremes, or work together as Americans to put our nation's fiscal house in order."
Congress returns from summer recess September 7 with a multitude of issues to address. Lawmakers will have until November 23 to produce a bill that fundamentally alters the United States' economic future.