Cheaper by the dozen?

"Cheaper by the dozen?" Continued...

Issue: "Finding their way," Oct. 8, 2011

Panel member Jon Kyl, a Republican senator from Arizona, has already pledged to "do my best to prevent" the more than $600 billion in potential defense spending cuts that he calls onerous and draconian. He has allies on the House side. "It is impossible to pay our entitlement tab with the Pentagon's credit card," said House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif.

Who is likely to be the deciding seventh vote on any panel compromise?

Increasing the odds of a stalemate, party leaders not surprisingly appointed members to the panel whose careers have exhibited party loyalty. Half of the panelists hold official party positions. These party lieutenants likely will not go their own way. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Republican co-chair, heads the House Republican Conference and is one of four members of the supercommittee who served on but voted against the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan.

The panel also contains top political operatives charged with party elections, including both the head of the current Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (Patty Murray of Washington) and the head of last year's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (Chris Van Hollen of Maryland). "If I were going to appoint a gang of 12 to get a solution," said former CBO director Crippen, "this may not be the 12 that I would have appointed."

Kyl is the second-ranking Senate Republican while Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina is the House's third-ranking Democrat. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., did most of the heavy lifting during the Obamacare debate while Rep. Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, is a member of the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus.

"We're concerned that they're going to take their orders from their national party leaders and not really sit down and call a time out on the 2012 elections," said Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark.

The most likely swing voters are two Republicans from Michigan: Rep. Fred Upton has taken criticism from some in his party for wanting to decrease the amount of tax cuts in the past. Likewise, Rep. Dave Camp has not been a vocal supporter of Rep. Paul Ryan's conservative budget plan. He declined to take up Ryan's plan as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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