Hensarling, Becerra, Camp and another committee member, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), served on a bipartisan debt-reduction commission chaired by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles last year. The commission came up with a plan to save about $4 trillion through entitlement cuts and increased tax revenue but foundered when a super-majority of commission members couldn’t agree to send the proposal to Congress for consideration. The supercommittee members who participated opposed the report.
But this time, Hensarling noted, mandatory cuts are coming if the panel cannot forge a deal.
“It is a highly motivating factor,” he said, calling the potential for $600 billion in cuts to the Pentagon’s budget “very alarming.”
Avoiding the triggers will not be easy, however. The committee will meet in Washington even as Republican presidential candidates urge a hard line on the primary campaign trail.
In last week’s GOP debate in Iowa, all eight candidates on the debate stage said they would reject a deal with new taxes, even if it included $10 of spending cuts for every $1 of new revenue.
But in the coming weeks, supercommittee members will be traveling their own districts, far from the hothouse of Washington. And they know that Congress is in the depths of unpopularity. One finding from a recent Washington Post poll: Only 17 percent of Americans say they are inclined to reelect their representative, the fewest to say so in three decades of polling.
Gary Chandler, vice president of a business association in Murray’s home state of Washington, said the message to Murray will be: “Let’s get this job done.”
Gene Clem, president of the Southwest Michigan Tea Party Patriots, said he would tell Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), a supercommittee member, “to come up with real solutions and put the politics aside.”
Last year, Upton faced a tough primary challenge from a local Michigan tea partyer who argued that Upton was too moderate on spending issues.
Now, Clem said he wants Upton and other panel members to eliminate tax loopholes and corporate subsidies — even if that results in higher revenue for the government — provided tax rates are lowered overall and entitlements are also cut.
“Maybe that’s where the tea party needs to be,” Clem said. “To bring the two sides together where there needs to be agreement. Like the parent, to bang their heads together.”
Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.