A veteran Senate aide with tax-policy expertise has been tapped by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to serve as its staff director, committee co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, announced on Tuesday.
Mark Prater, 52, is the deputy staff director and minority chief tax counsel on the Senate Finance Committee, where he has worked for more than two decades.
“The know-how and experience Mark brings to this difficult task is exactly what we agreed must be the top priority for the staff serving all the members of this committee,” Murray and Hensarling said in a statement announcing their decision.
Prater is well-liked and widely praised on both sides of the aisle. “We look forward to working with him and are confident that his approach and expertise will be valuable as we weigh the difficult but necessary choices ahead,” the co-chairs said.
Prater’s expertise extends beyond taxes to other areas under the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction including health care, which is a top target for finding savings. In 2001, Prater helped guide the Bush tax cuts through the committee, and he has worked to abolish the alternative minimum tax.
He has had a strong working relationship with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., as well as Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, formerly Finance's ranking Republican. In a statement, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., heaped praise on Prater. “Mark is one of the brightest, most knowledgeable, trusted and professional staffers on Capitol Hill,” he said.
According to the law establishing the panel, the joint committee must hold its first meeting by Sept. 16. The deficit committee is facing a tight clock that requires the 12 lawmakers tapped to serve on the panel with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction measures over ten years by Thanksgiving. When Congress returns next week, the panel has just eleven weeks to complete their task or face unpopular across-the-board spending cuts.