WASHINGTON — A conservative Texas Republican congressman has been chosen by House Speaker John Boehner to co-chair a powerful new committee tasked to find a bipartisan plan to slash the federal budget deficit by over $1 trillion.
Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Rep. Jeb Hensarling's selection on Wednesday. At the same time, he named Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton, both of Michigan, to the committee. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., named Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio to the panel.
Hensarling will provide a conservative counterweight to the Democratic co-chair, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, in what is shaping up as another debate in which Democrats will fight to protect entitlement programs while Republicans will adamantly oppose tax increases.
Hensarling is chairman of the House Republican Conference. Murray is chairwoman of the committee to elect Democratic senators and a longtime protector of Democratic priorities such as Medicare, Social Security and veterans' benefits.
"This joint committee presents an opportunity for both parties to bring to the table their best ideas, debate them on the merits, and ultimately come together to do what's best for our country," Boehner said. "With all that's at stake, I expect that the joint select committee will conduct its work in the open and transparent manner the American people deserve."
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid named Murray, as well as Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., to the panel. Nine of the panel's 12 positions are now filled. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will name the other three.
The committee is charged with coming up with at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over the coming decade. It has until the day before Thanksgiving to come up with a plan that gets at least seven votes.
If it fails, or if the House or Senate votes down its recommendations, severe across-the-board spending cuts would be triggered automatically, hitting large swaths of the federal budget starting in 2013, including priorities dear to both parties. These include Medicaid, farm subsidies and the defense budget.
Camp is chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, which also oversees Social Security and Medicare. Upton is chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.
On Wednesday, Camp made it clear he will continue to fight against "job-killing tax increases as a way to reduce our debt and deficits."
"If we are successful in curbing the overspending in Washington that has sparked fear in the financial markets and created uncertainty on Main Street, we will start to see the job creation we desperately need," Camp said.