The Post reports: “Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has selected Sen. Patty Murray of Washington to serve as co-chair of a new congressional committee charged with reducing the debt, Reid’s office announced Tuesday. Reid has also chosen Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to serve on the panel, which was created under the terms of the recent deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, the statement said.”
Not surprisingly, the prospect of three very liberal Democrats on a committee charged with deficit reduction did not fill Republicans with confidence that real entitlement and tax reform can be achieved. Their ire was especially focused on Murray:
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus blasted the choice of Murray, calling it “absolute proof that Democrats are not serious about deficit reduction.”
“As chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Murray is the Senate Democrats’ fundraiser-in-chief. The Select Committee is no place for someone whose top priority is fundraising and politics,” Priebus said in a statement.
A spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told me that these selections would not affect the minority leader’s choices, which are expected to be announced in the next few days.
Meanwhile in the House, an aide to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released excerpts of Boehner’s call with his conference:
“As everybody knows, Standard & Poor’s on Friday night downgraded our nation’s credit rating. As I think everybody also knows, this is something we’ve been warning could happen for months. When I spoke to the Economic Club of NY back in May, I talked about the need for spending cuts and reforms, including entitlement reform, and I said: ‘if we don’t act boldly soon, the markets may do it for us.’ A few months later, that’s exactly what’s happening: the markets are acting for us.
“The simple truth is that if our budget was law today, it’s unlikely anyone would be talking about the United States being downgraded today. S&P said in its own report Friday that entitlement reform is the key to long-term financial stability. We passed a budget through the House in April that includes entitlement reform, and cuts more than $6 trillion. The Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama have prevented most of those reforms have happening. And that’s why we have a downgrade.
Boehner promised House Republicans that he “will be announcing [the House Republican] picks for the Joint Committee in the coming days. You can be confident the people I select to represent our Conference will be people of courage who understand the gravity of this situation and are committed to doing what needs to be done.”
But is progress possible if the Democrats select committee members who aren’t known for bipartisan compromise? When I asked a House aide about the Senate Democrat picks, he cracked, “Can I be quoted on background yawning?” On a more serious note, he suggested that there was already a blueprint for the committee from the Biden negotiations.
Perhaps. And perhaps the dismal lack of job growth will encourage the parties to think about a flatter, simpler tax code. But don’t count on it.