A who’s who of the debt supercommittee

A look at the 12-member supercommittee that must turn in its recommendations for $1.2 trillion in additional spending cuts by Thanksgiving or risk pulling an automatic trigger for deep reductions to federal agencies and defense programs.

  • House
  • Senate

Xavier Becerra (D - Calif.)

First elected: 1992; Age: 53

Voted 'no' on raising the debt ceiling and 'no' on extending the Bush tax cuts

Considered a rising start of progressive politics, Xavier Becerra sits on the key Ways and Means committee. He is trusted by liberals in the House caucus, of which he serves as vice-chair and is the House's highest serving Latino. He has been a particular defender of ensuring social security benefits are not cut. He served on the Simpson-Bowles commission on debt reduction but was one of seven members who opposed the panel's final recommendations.

Dave Camp (R - Mich.)

First elected: 1990; Age: 58

Voted 'yes' on raising the debt ceiling and 'yes' on extending the Bush tax cuts

Dave Camp was tapped last December to chair the House Ways and Means Committee, overseeing tax and entitlement policy. He has already been at work with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on tax reform issues as well as on a bipartisan agreement to move three long-pending trade deals through Congress, and he has placed the goal of comprehensive tax reform -- something the super committee may try to tackle -- high on his agenda. He also played a key role in drafting the 1996 welfare reform bill. He also served on the Bowles-Simpson commission, opposing its recommendations.

James E. Clyburn (D - S.C.)

First elected: 1992; Age: 71

Voted 'yes' on raising the debt ceiling and 'no' on extending the Bush tax cuts

A close ally of Pelosi, Jim Clyburn is the House's third ranking Democrat and its highest ranking African-American member. He has been a vocal supporter of job creation in low-income neighborhoods. This spring and summer, he took part in bipartisan talks on debt reduction with Vice President Biden.

Jeb Hensarling (R - Texas)

First elected: 2002; Age: 54

Voted 'yes' on raising the debt ceiling and 'yes' on extending the Bush tax cuts

Jeb Hensarling is the fourth-ranking member of the Republican leadership as House Republican Conference Chairman. A five-term congressman and former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Hensarling is known more for being a conservative message man for his party than for working with Democratic members, although he voted in favor of last week's bipartisan debt-ceiling compromise. He has a close relationship with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), one of the leading conservative voices in the debt-ceiling debate. He is a senior member of the Financial Services Committee and served on the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction commission, opposing that panel's bipartisan recommendation of $4 trillion in savings through cuts to entitlements, agency budgets and increased tax revenue.

Fred Upton (R - Mich.)

First elected: 1986; Age: 58

Voted 'yes' on raising the debt ceiling and 'yes' on extending the Bush tax cuts

Fred Upton is a moderate who bested Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) to claim the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship at the start of the 112th Congress. Now in his 13th term, Upton is the longest serving of the three members tapped by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Before his election to Congress, Upton worked for several years at the Office of Management and Budget under his political mentor (and former Michigan congressman) David Stockman during the Reagan administration.

Max Baucus (D - Mont.)

First elected: 1978; Age: 69

Voted 'yes' on raising the debt ceiling and 'yes' on extending the Bush tax cuts

Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has been a key player in almost every domestic policy issue of the past decade, beginning with his bipartisan work in the 2001 Bush-era tax cuts and the creation of Medicare's prescription drug program in 2003. In recent years he has played a more hard-line role in pushing Obama's health-care plan through the Senate without a single GOP vote and taking a hard line in opposing the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts -- which he co-authored -- to the richest 2 percent of Americans. Baucus played a lead role for Senate Democrats in the spring negotiations led by Vice President Biden, the precursor to the debt deal approved last week.

John Kerry (D - Mass.)

First elected: 1984; Age: 67

Voted 'yes' on raising the debt ceiling and 'yes' on extending the Bush tax cuts

John Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee, has not specialized in domestic policy, but has been an expert on diplomacy, becoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman in 2009 after Biden left the Senate. Now that the presidency is outside his reach, Kerry has taken up an elder statesman role in the Senate and has become a bipartisan legislator, beginning with his work on approving a nuclear arms treaty last December and continuing this summer with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in shoring up support for the mission in Libya. He is a senior member of the Finance Committee and has voiced support for a \"balanced\" deal that could include increased tax revenue and also deep cuts to entitlement programs.

Jon Kyl (R- Ariz.)

First elected: 1994; Age: 69

Voted 'yes' on raising the debt ceiling and 'yes' on extending the Bush tax cuts

The Senate Minority Whip since 2008, Jon Kyl is close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), respected by conservatives and a major supporter of defense spending. In addition to being the No. 2 GOP leader, he is a senior member of the Finance Committee and will be retiring after next year. He has deep knowledge on debt issues -- he served as a lead Republican negotiator on the issue over the summer, including participating in talks led by Vice President Biden. Kyl has signed a pledge pushed by Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform promising not to raise taxes. He served eight years in the House before winning his Senate seat.

Patty Murray (D - Wash.)

First elected: 1992; Age: 60

Voted 'yes' on raising the debt ceiling and 'yes' on extending the Bush tax cuts

Having survived a difficult re-election in 2010, Patty Murray is poised to take on senior positions in the Senate. With Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) retiring next year, she is line to chair that panel and is now a high-ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, giving her broad expertise in how the federal government doles out funds. She has been a member of the top leadership for the last five years, and is a respected liberal in the caucus. However, her most recent role as her caucus' top campaign strategist -- chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- has drawn fire from both liberal watchdog groups and from Republicans. They question whether she can be actively raising money and recruiting candidates at a time when she is helping lead efforts to bring the nation's fiscal situation under control.

Rob Portman (R - Ohio)

First elected: 2010; Age: 55

Voted 'yes' on raising the debt ceiling

Rob Portman's deep understanding of the budget is respected on both sides of the aisle. He served for more than 12 years in the House, including as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, leaving in 2005 to become director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George Bush. He is especially close with fellow Ohioan, Speaker John Boehner, and is also close with other Senate Republican freshmen. He has a serious-minded and somewhat moderate reputation, but hails from a critical swing state and may not be interested in brokering a deal that might anger fellow Republicans. He has signed a pledge pushed by Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform promising not to raise taxes.

Patrick Toomey (R - Pa.)

First elected: 2010; Age: 49

Voted 'no' on raising the debt ceiling

Pat Toomey's decision to challenge longtime Sen. Arlen Specter for the 2010 Republican nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania pushed Specter to switch to the Democratic Party. After Specter was defeated by Rep. Joe Sestak for the Democratic nomination, Toomey was elected to the Senate. After six years in the House, Toomey in 2004 decided to leave the chamber and unsuccessfully challenged Specter. He went on to become president of the Club for Growth, a conservative group that has challenged GOP moderates in primary campaigns, and he is considered a hard-line vote against higher taxes. Last week he voted against the bipartisan compromise to raise the debt ceiling, which created the super committee.

Toomey has signed a pledge pushed by Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform promising not to raise taxes.

Source: Staff reports.
Graphic: Heather Billings, Paul Kane, Rosalind S. Helderman, Felicia Sonmez and Karen Yourish — The Washington Post.
Published Aug. 12, 2011.