Can 'super committee' play fair as it tries to control national debt?
The task of reining in the national debt lies in the hands of a super committee of 12, which gets down to business now that Congress is returning from its summer break.
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On Aug. 17, the ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to House and Senate leadership, calling for members of the super committee to "cease all fundraising operations for the duration of their service on the committee."Skip to next paragraph
"Americans need to have confidence that the solutions offered by the super committee represent the best interest of all Americans, not just committee members' biggest donors," said Melanie Sloan, CREW executive director, in a statement.
Meanwhile, the American League of Lobbyists expects to release a report in October on campaign-finance law. "When journalists write about a high-powered influential lobbyist, they aren't necessarily talking about the power of the words coming out of our mouths," says Howard Marlowe, president of the league.
"The league is going to try to do something to encourage members of Congress to search their souls and see if they can't make some changes. There is a responsibility for members of Congress to look at this," he adds.
As for the gridlock that characterized debt talks in July, many Americans hope things will be different this time around. Six in 10 say they want the panel to compromise, even if they don't personally support the outcome, according to a Gallup poll released Aug. 10.
For their part, committee members have steered clear of partisan or ideologically charged statements.
"This is an important moment for our country," said Murray, Baucus, and Kerry in a joint statement on Aug. 8. "Millions of Americans are struggling in this tough economy, working overtime to pay the bills, find a job, and find a way forward for their families, and they want this Committee to force the federal government to make similar sacrifices without the red hot partisanship and brinksmanship of the last months."
House Democrats are urging the panel to make jobs a priority by including a stimulus package, which would focus on infrastructure and would be aimed at resolving the debt crisis by getting Americans back to work and paying taxes. House Republicans, meanwhile, say that the route back to fuller employment is by cutting government regulations.
“We have to see how their first meetings go to see if they will advance a full-fledged, comprehensive economic growth plan, to which deficit reduction is a central component, or just focus on closing the deficit,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in Washington.
The choice for staff director of the joint committee – GOP tax expert Mark Prater, who is backed on both sides of the aisle – may signal that the panel is open to significant tax reform. Over 20 years as a Republican aide on the Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Prater has worked on issues ranging from expanding access to children’s health care to bipartisan budget deals that included tax increases.
“Mark has a well-earned reputation for being a workhorse who members of both parties have relied on,” said co-chairs Murray and Hensarling in a joint statement on Aug. 30.
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