The 12 members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction have been appointed. Six Republicans, six Democrats; six Senators, six Representatives. This so-called “Super Committee” will now see whether it can reach agreement on a plan to reduce deficits by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years. If they can’t, cuts to defense spending and discretionary programs will take effect. If they can, their proposal goes directly to the House and Senate floors for up or down votes.
Predictably, each side is criticizing the other side’s choices as political hacks, zealots, empty suits, or outright nuts. And each side also is expressing concern about their own side’s selections. Will they stand up to the pressure, or cave in and sacrifice the party’s principles? Only one person need break ranks to join the other side on a compromise proposal.
From my perspective, the Democratic and Republican selections appear to be predictable, safe, controlled choices who are true to their parties’ principles. Obviously, they all enjoy credibility with the party leadership, and my guess is that they have similar credibility with the vast majority of the members of their respective caucuses.
This may make reaching an agreement more difficult, but I also wonder whether these selections don’t also allow a possible Nixon-to-China moment. When President Nixon visited China as part of a diplomatic initiative to open relations with that nation, many noted that Nixon was one of the few people who could do so without being criticized as a communist sympathizer or squishy on national defense. If a long-time, staunch anti-Communist like Tricky Dick thought opening relations with China and shaking hands with Mao Zedong was a good idea, who could be heard to complain?
Perhaps the reputations of the Super Committee members as stalwart defenders of their parties’ positions on spending and taxes similarly will make any compromise they may reach more saleable in the House and Senate. If partisans as diverse as Patty Murray and Pat Toomey, Jeb Hensarling and James Clyburn, could possibly find common ground, wouldn’t that provide some cover for others to support the deal?