The roster’s now complete. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has named her picks to the deficit Super Committee, and they’re a familiar bunch: Reps Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Each of the three has served at her behest on different fiscal working groups in the recent past. All are loyal members, current or former, of her leadership team, all with fairly liberal voting records.
But here are a few caveats…As a member of the bipartisan deficit discussion group, convened by Vice President Joe Biden, that laid the groundwork for the debt limit deal, Clyburn — the third ranking Democrat in the House — publicly backed certain entitlement benefit cuts. Specifically, he said negotiators should at least consider further means-testing of Social Security or reduce benefits across the board by reducing Cost of Living Adjustments. “We make the determinations right now for benefits based upon CPI-U,” Clyburn said recently, referring to the current index the government uses to calculate Social Security’s Cost of Living Adjustment. “Now the question is will some other look at CPI make sense? And I think that it makes sense to look at it all to see what is an accurate account, a better way to determine benefits. I certainly wouldn’t walk away from that kind of discussion.”
Van Hollen is the Dems’ top budget guy in the House. He’s one of the party’s chief antagonists of the GOP budget, which calls for phasing out Medicare, and was also a member of the Biden working group. Publicly, he’s been an advocate of approaches to deficit reduction that pair about one dollar of tax increases with about three dollars of spending cuts. He recently cited the Bowles-Simpson framework as a counterpoint to the Republican plan. Their proposal largely punted on controlling health care costs, but called for eliminating all tax expenditures, and ensuring indefinite Social Security solvency with a combination of benefit cuts and revenue increases.
Becerra was a member of the Bowles-Simpson commission and he voted against their plan from the left. He’s the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee and will likely be progressives’ main ally on the Super Committee.
But remember, the key on this committee isn’t so much whether the Dems on it are prepared to cut entitlements. There’s a pretty broad range of opinions within the Democratic party about that — many would even support direct benefit cuts. The main issue for now is whether they’re willing to cut entitlements if Republicans aren’t willing to give an inch on taxes. On that score all six Democrats on the committee agree, they’re not. If that holds, then either the committee ends up in gridlock or Republicans break their anti-tax orthodoxy, in which case the question of what cuts Dems are willing to support will become extremely important.
Becerra and Clyburn are the only two people of color on the Super Committee. Co-chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is its only female.