Washington's last-minute deal to raise the U.S. debt limit earlier this month also created a powerful "super committee" of 12 legislators charged with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions by this fall. If they fail, automatic across-the-board spending cuts kick in. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced his three committee members: Sens. John Kerry (Mass.), Patty Murray (Wash.), and Max Baucus (Mont.). On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) unveiled their picks: Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), and Rob Portman (Ohio), and Reps. Dave Camp (Mich.), Fred Upton (Mich.), and Jeb Hensarling (Texas). (Nancy Pelosi has yet to name her three picks.) What do these choices tell us about the upcoming fiscal slugfest? Here, five talking points:
1. Liberals worry these Republicans won't budge on taxes
The "most important thing to know" about the Republicans' picks is that all six lawmakers have "signed Grover Norquist's pledge against raising taxes of any sort," says Jed Lewison at Daily Kos. In other words, "there's basically zero chance that any of these guys will support a marginally acceptable deficit reduction package" that includes revenue increases.
2. And conservatives expect Democrats won't compromise
The Democrats are hardly amenable to reaching a grand bargain, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Murray, for instance, heads up the Senate Democrats' election committee — and will be focused on 2012 politics. That "means there ain't no way, no how, no chance she's signing off on any deal that involves even minor Medicare reform."
3. But polls show voters want tax hikes and spending cuts
According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, notes Politico, "six in ten Americans say the super committee should compromise, even if the deal is something they personally don't agree with." Echoing Gallup's numbers, a new CNN poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans want tax hikes for the wealthy, 57 percent want cuts to domestic spending, and only 35 percent think the panel should make big changes to Social Security and Medicare. If this is what America wants, says John Amato at Crooks and Liars, the panel's inclusion of six rabidly anti-tax Republicans is "very troubling."
4. Perhaps the super committee is destined to fail
With six intransigent Republicans and "hardline Democrats like Murray and Kerry" on board, "I've got little confidence that this committee is going to accomplish much of anything," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. The more likely outcome is "the same kind of grandstanding and phony proposals that we saw during the six weeks of the debt ceiling negotiations." Based on the picks so far, says Amy Davidson at The New Yorker, it sure looks like congressional leaders are "casting a piece of political theater" rather than "selecting an actual deliberative body."
5. Hold on. There's some hope for compromise
The Republican choices are actually "the most conservative representatives who are nevertheless capable of making a deal," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. Indeed, says David Weigel at Slate. Short of a moderate like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), this slate of Republicans "is about as good as" Democrats could have hoped for. Kyl is retiring and has nothing to lose. Toomey is an "elder statesman" willing to talk to Dems. "There'll be no Ron Johnson or Rand Paul to toss grenades in the pond." Plus, the volatility in the market provides lawmakers in both parties with a big "motivating factor" to cut a deal: "Fear," says Susan Davis at National Journal. Nobody wants to be responsible for another credit downgrade.