The Congressional “super-committee” finally has a roster: we now know the twelve men and women tasked with cutting as much as $1.5 trillion from the federal budget, and quite possibly restructuring entitlements and rewriting the federal tax code.
Unlike any other Congressional committee in recent memory, this “super-committee” will wield enormous legislative power. Their recommendations will be fast-tracked in Congress, meaning they cannot be amended and are guaranteed a simple-majority vote in the Senate. If the super-committee does not produce recommendations, or if Congress does not approve them, massive triggers will be activated: $1.5 trillion will be cut from the budget, drawing equally from defense and domestic spending.
With this much power concentrated among twelve people, K Street is revving up the money machine to help influence the decisions. “Every lobbyist is going to go through their Rolodex to try and figure out all the connections to the twelve members of the ‘super committee,’ ” Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, told Bloomberg. One Democratic lobbyist quipped to Politico that he was preparing for the super-committee “by writing twelve really large checks.”
Legislators on both sides of the aisle are already concerned about the cannons of cash now aimed directly at the super-committee members. Republican Senators David Vitter and Dean Heller have both introduced legislation to impose transparency requirements and additional financial disclosure from members of the super-committee; in the House, Democratic Representative Mike Quigley and Republican Representative Jim Renacci are circulating a letter calling for, among other things, weekly disclosures from super-committee members campaign contributions and meetings with lobbyists.
Super-committee members, who were selected to represent their party, not strictly their own interests, will no doubt act for a wide variety of strategic and political reasons. And as The Nation‘s Ari Berman has written, there are much larger problems with the scope of the committee regardless of who is on it, because it will choose between a variety of bad options, and cannot act on job creation. But it’s still important to understand what industries are lobbying them—and which industries already have the inside track.
To that end, The Nation looked at campaign finance data from the Center for Responsive Politics for each member—Democratic Senators John Kerry, Patty Murray, Max Baucus and Democratic Representatives Xavier Becerra, James Clyburn and Chris Van Hollen; and Republican Senators Jon Kyl, Rob Portman, Pat Toomey and Republican Representatives Fred Upton, Dave Camp and Jeb Hensarling.