Amid Standoff, a New Super Committee?

House Speaker John Boehner speaks with President Obama about a possible deal to prevent a shutdown.
National Journal
Billy House
Oct. 8, 2013, 8:52 a.m.

Demo­crats already are pan­ning it as a “su­per com­mit­tee” re­dux, but House Re­pub­lic­ans are set to act Tues­day on a bill to es­tab­lish a new pan­el of House and Sen­ate mem­bers to work out com­prom­ises on re­open­ing gov­ern­ment and hik­ing the debt-ceil­ing.

The move is the latest House GOP ef­fort to il­lus­trate they are will­ing to sit down and ne­go­ti­ate, even as Speak­er John Boehner’s of­fice said Tues­day that he’d re­ceived a call from Pres­id­ent Obama re­fus­ing to do so.

“The pres­id­ent called the speak­er again today to re­it­er­ate that he won’t ne­go­ti­ate on a gov­ern­ment fund­ing bill or debt lim­it in­crease,” said Boehner spokes­man Brendan Buck.

Obama and Demo­crats have con­tin­ued to urge Boehner, R-Ohio, to simply put “clean” bills to re­start gov­ern­ment fund­ing and al­low the na­tion to keep bor­row­ing on the floor for an up-or down vote, without the policy con­ces­sions de­man­ded by Re­pub­lic­ans.

As a res­ult, House Re­pub­lic­ans have launched their new bicam­er­al com­mit­tee idea, which one seni­or Demo­crat­ic House staffer fa­cetiously re­ferred to as “the Cruz com­mit­tee,” a ref­er­ence to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex.

Ac­cord­ing to a draft of the new bill, the GOP’s “Bicam­er­al Work­ing Group on De­fi­cit Re­duc­tion and Eco­nom­ic Growth” would be charged with re­com­mend­ing to the full House and Sen­ate: over­all levels of dis­cre­tion­ary spend­ing for the fisc­al year end­ing on Sept. 30, 2014; changes in the stat­utory lim­it on the pub­lic debt; and re­forms to dir­ect spend­ing pro­grams.

The com­mit­tee’s roster would be com­prised of 10 House mem­bers, in­clud­ing six Re­pub­lic­ans and four to be chosen by Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal­if. Boehner would des­ig­nate a House co-chair. Of the 10 Sen­ate mem­bers, six would be Demo­crats and four will be chosen by Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky. A Sen­ate co-chair will be se­lec­ted by Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev.

The group would first meet no later than the day after its mem­bers are ap­poin­ted. It could not make any re­com­mend­a­tion to the full House and Sen­ate un­less it re­ceives the sup­port of a ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers ap­poin­ted by both the Speak­er and the ma­jor­ity lead­er of the Sen­ate. It would then have to re­port those re­com­mend­a­tions with­in three days.

Sen­ate Demo­crats sounds am­bi­val­ent to the idea, and in­stead re­in­force their po­s­i­tion when asked wheth­er they’d sup­port such a group. “I think our view is that we will look at any pro­cess that will get is to a budget,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. “But we won’t do it as long as gov­ern­ment is closed or there’s a threat that we’re not pay­ing our bills.”

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans did not em­brace the idea. Sen Ro­ger Wick­er, R-Miss., poin­ted out that the su­per com­mit­tee in­cluded a trig­ger that led to se­quest­ra­tion cuts. With­hold­ing ul­ti­mate judg­ment, Wick­er said he’d wait to see what the le­gis­la­tion was be­fore an­noun­cing his po­s­i­tion.

The bill to es­tab­lish the com­mit­tee could be ac­ted on as early as Tues­day. It is ex­pec­ted to be com­bined un­der one rule with a sep­ar­ate bill that would al­low es­sen­tial fed­er­al per­son­nel to be paid dur­ing the shut­down.

“The way to re­solve this is to sit down and have a con­ver­sa­tion to re­solve our dif­fer­ences,” Boehner said on Tues­day, a point he has made sev­er­al times.

But House Demo­crats re­acted swiftly to pan the idea of the new com­mit­tee ““ not­ing that the 2011 de­fi­cit-re­duc­tion “su­per com­mit­tee” was not able to reach any agree­ment, and that se­quest­ra­tion was the res­ult.

House Demo­crat­ic Con­fer­ence Chair­man Xavi­er Be­cerra, D-Cal­if., at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day with oth­er Demo­crats, con­tin­ued to de­mand that Boehner simply put a “clean” spend­ing bill on the House floor to end the shut­down and for law­makers to do their jobs through nor­mal le­gis­lat­ive pro­cess.

Be­cerra him­self was a mem­ber of the 2011 su­per com­mit­tee. As he put it, “There was noth­ing su­per about it.”

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