The answer’s no, but whether it was no all along or whether things quickly changed after Steve Hayes pulled the pin on this grenade at the Standard this morning, only McConnell knows.
Three Republican Senate sources tell TWS that senators who vote against the deal will be ineligible to serve on the so-called “supercommittee” for deficit reduction that the legislation creates.
While there’s certain logic to such a policy, it could be self-defeating. Excluding those who vote against the debt deal will ensure that some of the most fiscally conservative members of the Senate Republican caucus, including most of its freshmen, will be reading about the committee’s activities in the newspaper rather than guiding its decisions. Among those who have already declared their opposition to the deal: libertarian-leaning senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul; Jim DeMint, the aggressive fiscal hawk from South Carolina; conservative reformers Ron Johnson from Wisconsin and Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania; the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, Jeff Sessions; and Florida’s Marco Rubio, already one of the highest-profile conservatives in Congress.
More worrisome for conservatives, however, is that private whip counts in the Senate found that some 20 Republicans expressed support for the proposals that came out of the Gang of Six.
Roughly five minutes after that story hit the wires, McConnell’s spokesman rushed out a statement insisting that everyone is eligible regardless of their vote. I’d be amazed if they even considered the alternative. After all the outrage among the base over the deal and all the lip service paid to tea partiers by the GOP leadership, what else could the reaction be if most of Congress’s tea-party heroes were summarily bounced from the next big round of deficit reduction? It doesn’t even make sense on the merits: A no vote on round one doesn’t necessarily mean a no vote on round two (although, admittedly, it’s likely), and if a tea-party Committee member did vote to support the Committee’s recommendations, it’d be a huge coup in terms of getting the base and other fiscal cons in Congress on board.
All of which makes me think the original plan — at least before Hayes’s piece dropped — was simply to appoint a couple of tea partiers who voted yes on the deal. Fully 59 freshmen supported the bill in the House; Allen West was probably the most visible and influential among the base, so Boehner might reward him with a seat. In the Senate, McConnell will stay away from DeMint and Rand Paul after last year’s “unpleasantness” in the Kentucky Senate primary, but if he wants to build some grudging grassroots support for the Committee, he could appoint Rubio or, if he’s really daring, Mike Lee. All of these people will almost certainly vote no on a final deal, of course, but politics is politics and constituencies have to be satisfied. In fact, I wonder if McConnell will balance out the tea-party member on the Committee with a retiree like Jon Kyl, who’ll be free to provide the crucial seventh vote in order to send the final package to Congress if need be.
Maybe it’s time for a Super Committee fantasy draft. Iowahawk suggests R. Lee Ermey, Chuck Norris, Mr. T, Vlad the Impaler, Dale Peterson, and Zombie Reagan.
Update: They really might have to appoint Zombie Reagan to win over FreedomWorks honcho Matt Kibbe:
“And I’ve got to tell you, this super-committee — this is an abdication of congressional responsibility. It’s their job to pass a budget resolution. It’s their job to pass appropriations bills. And just because they can’t do it doesn’t mean that the Constitution allows them to kick the can to some super-committee.”
Kibbe said the next phase of the battle will include a “tea party debt commission” that will work parallel to the new bipartisan committee that will recommend deficit-cutting maneuvers. The “commission” will include field hearings and events in battleground presidential states, Kibbe said.
All the more reason for the leadership to appoint tea partiers to the Super Committee. If they don’t, they run a greater risk of fiscal cons in Congress embracing the tea-party commission’s recommendations instead (which will probably happen regardless), and that’ll increase the risk that Congress will pass nothing and the triggers will kick in. I wonder how long it’ll be before MoveOn or PCCC or whoever announces they’re forming their own debt commission too to pull Democrats to the left. 90 percent tax rates or bust!
Update: Meanwhile, Pelosi’s working hard to make sure that the Super Committee accomplishes nothing productive:
At a pre-recess press conference Tuesday afternoon, TPM asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) whether the people she appoints to the committee will make the same stand she made during the debt limit fight — that entitlement benefits — as opposed to provider payments, waste and other Medicare spending — should be off limits.
In short, yes.
“That is a priority for us,” Pelosi said. “But let me say it is more than a priority – it is a value… it’s an ethic for the American people. It is one that all of the members of our caucus share. So that I know that whoever’s at that table will be someone who will fight to protect those benefits.”
In that case, McConnell might as well appoint DeMint, Paul, and Lee. Or better yet, don’t appoint anyone and walk away right now. It’s a sham.