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Pelosi names House Democrats to deficit super committee; compromise hope dim

And then there were 12.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today completed the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka the Super Congress, by appointing Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra of California, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and James Clyburn of South Carolina.

All three men are current or former members of Pelosi's leadership team. They also have a history of protecting entitlement programs.

Clyburn is the Assistant Democratic Leader, making him the third-ranking member of House Democratic Leadership. He was part of Vice President Biden's deficit commission and has years of experience on the House Appropriations Committee.

Becerra is the current Democratic Caucus Vice Chair and a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He also served on the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

Van Hollen is House Budget Committee Ranking Member and previously served on Ways and Means. He is responsible for the House Democrats' budget proposal and was part of the Democratic contingent in the Biden deficit reduction effort.

They now join:

  • House Republicans Jeb Hensarling (committee co-chair) of Texas, Dave Camp of Michigan and Fred Upton of Michigan;
  • Senate Democrats Patty Murray (the other co-chair) of Washington, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Max Baucus of Montana; and
  • Senate Republicans Jon Kyl of Arizona, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Compromise or clash? In naming her panelists, Pelosi called for a "grand bargain" that reduces the deficit by addressing our entire budget, while strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  "Our entire Caucus will work closely with these three appointees toward this goal," said Pelois, "which is the goal of the American people."

Good luck with that lofty deficit reduction goal, Rep. Pelosi.

With apologies to Agatha Christie, the phrase "12 Little Indians" comes to my mind. Looking at the previous and expected political positions of the dozen members of Congress, I see any chance of compromise being killed soon after the panel convenes its first meeting.

Maybe I'm being too cynical. (That type of outlook has already raised some questions from financial advisers this week.)

Perhaps the special super panel members will listen to each other, give and take, exchange ideas and come to a more-in-the-middle position when it comes to cutting spending and taking in some tax revenue. Such a process could be advanced if the committee agrees to Pelosi's request that it do its work in the open. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also has requested such hearing transparency.

But I suspect that after some opening niceties, we'll see a replay of the painful debt ceiling process. Most of these super committee members, after all, have already been part of previous bipartisan deficit and budget panels that ended up with nothing.

So get ready for some late hours as the Thanksgiving break approaches. Note to Capitol Hill staffers: Stock up on turkey TV dinners.

And don't be surprised to see the automatic spending cuts kick in when all is demagogued and (not) done.


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