WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made the final picks for the new deficit-slashing "super Congress" Thursday, naming three lawmakers she believed would back her position that revenue-raising measures must be included in any deal reached by the committee.
The super Congress, officially titled "The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction," consists of 12 lawmakers -- six from each party and each chamber -- who have been given nearly unprecedented power to cut projected deficits by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
The committee will need only seven votes to pass its proposal. The rest of Congress will not have the power to amend their plan, obstruct it from coming to a vote, or even filibuster it in the Senate -- they will only be able to vote it up or down.
Saying that the committee "must put American prosperity first," Pelosi named members whom she thought would do just that: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is the assistant party leader; Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) vice chair of the Democratic Caucus; and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
"The Joint Select Committee has a golden opportunity to take its discussions to the higher ground of America's greatness and its values," Pelosi said in a statement announcing her picks. "It must meet the aspirations of the American people for success and keep America number one."
She also laid out her standards for the committee, saying:
- Focus on economic growth and job creation that reduces the deficit;
- Make decisions regarding investments, cuts and revenues and their timing to stimulate growth while reducing the deficit; and
- Increase demand by offering recommendations that ensure that wages grow with productivity and reduce America's families' dependence on credit.
Pelosi has been adamant that the revenue-raising elements of a deal that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) nearly backed with President Obama must be included in the final deal reached by the committee.
"We must achieve a 'grand bargain' that reduces the deficit by addressing our entire budget, while strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," Pelosi said. "Our entire caucus will work closely with these three appointees toward this goal, which is the goal of the American people."
So far, Pelosi, more than any other congressional leader, has emphasized the position that debt-reduction must be done in a way that does not hamstring a struggling economy. JPMorgan Chase has already estimated the initial deal to raise the debt limit will shave a point and a half off the GDP.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid named Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to the committee earlier this week. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tapped Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), while Boehner chose Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.). Murray and Hensarling will serve as co-chairs of the committee.
Pelosi also repeated her call Thursday that the committee be open to public scrutiny.
"Because the work of this committee will affect all Americans, I called last week for its deliberations to be transparent. The committee should conduct its proceedings in the open," she said.
Some outsiders have called for all campaign donations to members to be disclosed immediately to in order to help prevent special interests from having undue influence on the committee's work.
Some interested observers thought the composition of the committee suggested there was at least a small chance it would be able to strike a deal that passes Congress. "These are all adults," said one Medicare lobbyist, who noted that Boehner's picks are not backed by the Tea Party. "They are all Boehner people -- [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor got no one."
Toomey is probably the most right wing of the Republican committee members, having once led the vehemently anti-tax Club for Growth. Hensarling, meanwhile, has often advocated privatizing Social Security. But in Camp, Upton, Kyl and Portman, the lobbyist saw chances for compromise.
On the Democratic side, many liberals see Baucus as most likely to side with Republicans, but one Senate leadership aide suggested instead that Baucus would be a tough advocate for the Democratic position. The Medicare lobbyist noted that Baucus is likely to be protective of both Social Security and the health insurance reform law that he was instrumental in writing.
The committee is supposed to finish its debt-reduction plan by Nov. 23. Congress must vote on the whole package by Dec. 23.