Welcome to The Intersection, a series from the VOX Global team designed to help you anticipate and prepare for public policy challenges and opportunities that you may face.
Table of Contents: Aug 2011
- Will the Super Committee Work?
- The House Republicans
- The Senate Democrats
- The Senate Republicans
- The House Democrats
The House Republicans
There is an interesting debate surrounding the make-up of the super committee. Some will argue that the House, the chamber with considerably more policymakers, ought to get more appointments than the Senate; some will argue that the balance is appropriate because Senators represent more constituents than House Members; and some may argue that fewer members are better to avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen. What is not debatable is the pressure that all six House appointees will feel simply as a result of the numbers and current dynamics in that legislative body. Those likely to feel this pressure the most are the three House Republican appointees.
Speaker John Boehner selected Representatives Jeb Hensarling (TX), Fred Upton (MI), and Dave Camp (MI), and they face a daunting challenge as they prepare to sit at the super committee’s negotiating table. The Republican majority in the House currently consists of 240 members. That number alone will be difficult to manage and represent on the super committee; current dynamics among that 240 will only increase the complexity.
Of that 240, there are 87 newly elected Members who feel a sense of obligation to the mandate they were given by their voters last November. They have proven to be a credible and influential group to the Speaker and other members in leadership – attributes not typically found in a freshman class in Congress. While the recent debt ceiling “deal” would not have passed the House without Speaker Boehner’s leadership and a fairly unified Republican Conference, there were 66 Republicans who voted “no.” Many Republicans who did vote “yes” made it quite clear that their vote carried the requirement that the super committee not propose any tax increases. One other dynamic that won’t be lost during super committee negotiations is that, of the 240 House Republicans, only seven Members have not signed the pledge circulated by Americans for Tax Reform and its leader, Grover Norquist (who is revered in GOP circles) promising that they will not vote to raise taxes. Hensarling, Upton, and Camp have each signed the pledge – as has every member of the Republican House leadership.
Representative Hensarling was a very strategic selection by Speaker Boehner – so much so that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed Hensarling will represent the Republicans as Co-Chairman of the super committee. Hensarling is the former Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, an influential group of conservative House Members. His appointment should reassure the 87 freshman and the 66 “no” votes who are worried that the super committee will use its authority to push tax hikes. It is likely that Boehner made this selection to mitigate the disappointment by some who wanted a freshman to serve on the super committee. Hensarling is also a member of the House Budget Committee and has a good working relationship with Chairman Paul Ryan, who carries a lot of weight with his committee members and the Conference budget hawks.
Look for Hensarling to show dignity and civility in his role as co-chair – he is a career political operative who knows the inside game very well. But also look to him to be very timely and strategic when he throws a marker on the table for his conservative followers on the issue of taxes. The freshman and 66 “no” votes will be looking to Hensarling to carry their water – which he will do strategically – but he will also be counted on by Speaker Boehner and the Leadership for cover and to shore up conservative votes in the likely outcome of a compromise.
Representative Camp is a longtime ally of Speaker Boehner and current Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, responsible for tax-writing initiatives. He is a serious and active legislator with a strong knowledge of the tax code. Because of the tax implications, entitlement programs must go through the Ways and Means Committee, including Medicare and Social Security, so he will bring experience and knowledge to the negotiating table when those topics come up. Additionally, the Ways and Means Committee had jurisdiction over President Obama’s healthcare reform bill and Camp, as the minority ranking member at the time, was front and center in that debate. In fact, he wrote the GOP alternative to the President’s Bill and led the GOP effort to try to defeat it on the House floor. He criticized the President for creating new taxes and failing to adhere to “pay as you go” budget rules. The principles found in that criticism will remain unchanged with Rep. Camp as he begins his work on the super committee.
Look for Camp to potentially be a swing vote on the panel. While he has a very consistent track record of voting with his party (93.6% of the time), he is open to compromise as evidenced by the significant role he played in working with President Clinton to pass welfare reform legislation in the mid 1990’s. Camp has certainly been a champion for his party’s tax-cutting ideology and anti-big government line, especially with entitlements, but his ability to truly legislate along with his ties to Speaker Boehner may have him serving as a voice for the Speaker and a key player on the super committee.
Like Camp, it appears Representative Upton was another selection by Speaker Boehner meant to demonstrate seriousness about entitlement reform. Upton currently sits as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which also has jurisdiction over entitlement programs such as Medicare. Long viewed as a moderate, Upton has turned more conservative in his role as Chairman. However, he remains the source of some right-wing scorn for his support for legislation in 2007 to ban incandescent light bulbs. For that, and other reasons, the conservatives were not too pleased with his selection as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and that concern may be transferable to his appointment to the super committee. However, his conservative stripes have not gone completely unrecognized by the right as he has shown some leadership in pushing back against EPA regulators on numerous issues that come before his committee.
Look for Rep. Upton to be one of the most likely to reach across the aisle on the super committee for solutions. He has a track record of doing so with folks like Rahm Emanuel, former Democrat congressman and Chief of Staff to President Obama. But, more interesting is his motivation to get a deal done because of his sensitivity to the economic situation in his home state of Michigan. The unemployment rate in Michigan has remained at over 10% for 31 consecutive months and those numbers, if sustained, can mean political death for any elected official in the state. Upton will bring another interesting dynamic to the table and that is his commitment to ensure that the repeal of President Obama’s health care initiative is part of the budget and deficit negotiations among super committee members.
The American people are certainly in for an interesting, and probably frustrating, few months as the twelve super committee appointments manage the politics and interests of their respective parties. The management of these dynamics by the three House Republican appointees will be crucial to the final outcome of the super committee’s work.http://voxglobal.com