Kentucky’s senior senator, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, announced today his appointments to the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction tasked with reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion more than the cuts already identified in the Budget Control Act. McConnell appointed Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
“Chronic joblessness, out-of-control deficits and debt, and an unprecedented credit downgrade represent an historic challenge but also an historic opportunity for lawmakers in Washington to show they can work together on a plan that puts America back on the path to prosperity. All three of these appointees understand the gravity of our situation and all three will bring the kind of responsibility, creativity, and thoughtfulness that the moment requires. The American people know that we cannot dig ourselves out of this situation by nibbling around the edges, and I am confident that each of these nominees can be counted on to propose solutions that put the interests of all Americans ahead of any one political party.”
The bipartisan, bicameral select committee is a central part of the new Budget Control Act and is tasked with reducing the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. The 12-member committee is equally divided among Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, House Republicans and House Democrats. The panel must vote on legislation by November 23. Legislation reported from the committee will receive expedited consideration in both chambers and be voted on by December 23.
If the committee produces legislation that achieves $1.2 trillion or greater in savings and that legislation is enacted into law, the President would then have the authority to request a debt limit increase of an equal amount (subject to disapproval & veto), capped at $1.5 trillion. Should the committee fail to agree on legislation, or if that legislation is not passed and signed into law by the President, a sequester mechanism would trigger automatic cuts. However, the sequester was designed by both parties to create a strong incentive for the committee to succeed. Depending on the deficit reduction enacted by the Joint Committee, the total debt limit increase could be at least $2.1 trillion but not more than $2.4 trillion.
“My main criteria for selecting members was to identify serious, constructive senators who are interested in achieving a result that helps to get our nation’s fiscal house in order,” McConnell said. “That means reforming entitlement programs that are the biggest drivers of our debt, and reforming the tax code in a way that makes us more competitive and leads to more American jobs. The goal is to achieve a result that convinces Americans and the world that we’re committed as a nation to prosperity for all our citizens.”
Sen. Jon Kyl was elected unanimously by his colleagues in 2008 to serve as Republican Whip, the second highest position in Senate Republican leadership. He is a senior member of the Finance Committee and a leading advocate of pro-growth tax policies. Kyl is in his third term in the Senate after serving four terms in the House of Representatives. He was the Senate Republicans’ lead negotiator in the deficit reduction talks led by the Vice President over the summer.
Sen. Pat Toomey is a member of the Budget, Banking, Commerce and Joint Economic Committees and has been a leader on economic, financial services, and budgetary issues. Toomey is in his first term in the Senate after serving three terms in the House of Representatives. Sen. Toomey has run a small business and served as the president of The Club for Growth.
Sen. Rob Portman will be the only former Director of the Office of Management and Budget on the Joint Committee. He is a member of the Budget Committee and serves on the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee). Sen. Portman is in his first term in the Senate. He served in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2005 when he became the U.S. Trade Representative. While serving in the House of Representatives, he served as Vice Chair of the House Budget Committee and as a member of the House Ways & Means Committee. In 1997, Portman co-chaired the National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service with Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his intent to appoint the following three lawmakers to represent House Republicans on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction:
- House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
- House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI)
- House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI)
Speaker Boehner has tapped Chairman Hensarling to serve as a co-chair of the joint select committee. Boehner issued the following statement regarding the appointments of Chairmen Hensarling, Camp, and Upton:
“Our debt and deficits are a threat to our economy, and America cannot achieve long-term job growth until we take action to address this crisis. In the weeks ahead, a serious, bipartisan committee of lawmakers will begin the hard but necessary work of making the tough choices needed to rein in mandatory and entitlement spending, which are the drivers of our debt. The lawmakers I have appointed to serve on this joint committee are proven leaders who have earned the trust and confidence of their colleagues and constituents. They understand the gravity of our debt crisis and I appreciate their willingness to serve on this panel.
“The two parties have fundamental differences about government and its proper role in our society. Where we've been able to agree, we have acted, and in a way consistent with the American people’s desire for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government. Still, the differences remain, and so does the urgent work of returning our economy to creating jobs and lifting the crushing burden of debt that threatens our children’s future. This joint committee presents an opportunity for both parties to bring to the table their best ideas, debate them on the merits, and ultimately come together to do what’s best for our country. With all that’s at stake, I expect that the joint select committee will conduct its work in the open and transparent manner the American people deserve.”
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