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Why The Super Committee's New Tax Expert Could Be Key To Its Success

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Yes, that's maddening. If the Bush tax cuts expire, there's no medium-term deficit problem, and thus no need for a Super Committee. And yet Republicans insist on assuming the cuts will expire in order to make sure they don't expire.

Still, if panel members want new revenues to count toward deficit reduction, they will likely have to look outside the basic structure of the Bush tax cuts. Creating new tax brackets would work, but the GOP is more dead set against that than closing myriad existing loopholes, reducing tax expenditures, etc. That's why tax code expertise is important -- and as multiple Democrats, both on and off the record, were eager to point out Tuesday, Mark Prater has tons of it.

"Mark Prater's selection as Staff Director is a very positive start for the work of the Joint Committee," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said Tuesday. "Mark is well respected on both sides of the aisle and, throughout his career, has demonstrated an ability to work in a bipartisan fashion to get results. He is a consummate professional. He is a terrific choice to serve as Staff Director."

Whether the fact that he's a Republican makes it more or less likely they'll find avenues both Republicans and Democrats can agree upon is difficult to say. And whether they ultimately find enough new revenues to lure Democrats to support entitlement cuts is largely up to Democrats.

But that's where this is headed.

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