08.11.2011 2

Politics as usual infects Congressional Super-committee

By Rick Manning – The Congressional super-committee got off to a rough start as Senator Harry Reid announced his three delegates to this congressionally created deficit reduction committee — Senators Patty Murray, John Kerry and Max Baucus.

Reid’s appointment of Senator Patty Murray of Washington state would appear to be benign at first glance.  The liberal Senator is typically not seen as one of the brightest lights in the Senate, but her story as the mom in tennis shoes who ran for the Senate plays to the populist masses.

Murray’s appointment however, is anything but innocent.

As the Chairperson of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Murray is the chief fundraiser to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate.  As the DSCC website describes itself as, “…the only organization solely dedicated to electing a Democratic Senate.  From grassroots organizing to candidate recruitment to providing campaign funds for tight races, the DSCC is working hard all year, every year to elect Democrats.”

Imagine the opportunities Murray’s inclusion in the super-committee could provide.

Need your corporate tax break protected?  You know where to go.

Cuts in your program contemplated?  See Senator Murray, to register your complaint.

Want to gut a competitor through pushing a very targeted tax increase?  Dial the DSCC for the latest opportunity to attend a $10,000 event.

While the above may seem crass, lobbying firms in DC have been gearing up for the past week selling potential  and current clients on how they can influence the workings of this select group.

By putting Senator Patty Murray, who in fairness does not have a reputation of being a transactional member of Congress, on the super-committee, Harry Reid has effectively pulled the legs of legitimacy out from under the entire process.

It also has the impact of allowing the Majority Leader the leverage to hold his wavering Senators in line during a spending showdown with the Republicans.

In the upcoming 2012 election, 23 out of 33 Senators up for election are either Democrats or Independents who caucus with the Democrats.  If Reid loses just a net four of these seats, he will be known by the title, Mr. Minority Leader.

Many of these Senators are under intense pressure to support the strong sentiment back home to roll back federal government spending, and Patty Murray’s DSCC will be making decisions about which Senators are worth saving, and which states are just too difficult to win.  Decisions that will in some cases determine which Democrats come back to the banks of the Potomac River for another six years, and which get the opportunity to return to the Post Office Boxes that they call home.

With Murray’s appointment to the super-committee, it increases the ability for Reid and Murray to leverage any Democrat Senator who is up for election by saying, if you vote for spending cuts, no soup for you.

A reasonable person might ask if Murray might not have been the best choice based upon her engagement on budget issues?

The sad truth is that if Reid had wanted someone on the super-committee who had grappled with these issues in a bi-partisan way, he would have chosen his own eminently qualified Budget Committee Chairman, Kent Conrad from North Dakota.

Conrad, was part of the Gang of Six negotiations, a group whose bi-partisan deficit reduction recommendations were at least partially embraced by Reid.  Yet, Conrad’s expertise and knowledge was being left on the sidelines, while Reid instead chose to place the Senator responsible for raising the money to keep him in power on the Committee.

I guess the choice is understandable, albeit sad, as Democrats in Washington have been living off of Rahm Emmanuel’s credo of never letting a good crisis go to waste for years.

After the credit downgrade, perhaps I was naïve when I hoped that those who our elected leaders would avoid the temptation to use the super-committee for politics as usual.

Sadly, Harry Reid’s appointment of Patty Murray shows that he hasn’t learned anything.  I guess it is true that you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks.  Unfortunately, we can’t get a new dog until November of 2012.

Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Rick on Twitter at @RManning957.

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