House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's choices for the Catfood Commission II are being characterized as party stalwarts which is, for the most part, true.
Pelosi's picks: Democratic whip James E. Clyburn, caucus vice chair Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles and Chris Van Hollen, ranking Dem on the Budget Committee. Becerra voted against the recommendations of the Bowles Simpson deficit commission last year, and Clyburn and Van Hollen are loyal Pelosi lieutenants.
Pelosi said in a statement that the committee must focus on jobs and economic growth, time any spending cuts and tax increases in a way that does not further hamper short-term growth, and "ensure that wages grow with productivity."[...]
She laid out her bottom line for a "grand bargain" that "reduces the deficit by addressing our entire budget" i.e. tax increases, "while strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," i.e. no benefit cuts in entitlements.
Those are the marching orders for these three, apparently, but they'll have to contend with the less-than-always-stalwart Democratic senators and the six Republicans who have sold their souls to Grover Norquist. So how do these three look when it comes to potential capitulation to the unmoveable no taxes coalition? Not bad.
Rep. Clyburn, number three in Democratic leadership in the House, has previously been problematic for progressives, since he has advocated for a retirement age increase and the chained CPI fairly recently. But according to this report from a local news source, he's backed off, saying that "he would be unwilling to support increasing the retirement age for Social Security and he doesn't think the government's spending problem is entitlement programs."
Clyburn said GOP demands for entitlement reductions and tax cuts are dishonest.
"This is just blaming poor people for the problem ...while fat cats get another tax cut," he said, adding that the argument that raising taxes kills jobs is a "fiction. It just is not true."
That's good news. As is the pick of Becerra, who Pelosi also chose for the original Catfood Commission, where he was a "no" vote, and also a member of the leadership, the Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. Meteor Blades has noted of Becerra, "[h]e is the highest ranking Latino in the Democratic caucus and is its vice chair. He is a member of the Progressive Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus, and is a strong ally of Nancy Pelosi. He has backed increased benefits for the poor."
Van Hollen, as former DCCC chair and the ranking member on the Budget Committee is a solid partisan who undoubtedly understands just how critical it is to Democratic prospects in 2012 to protect social insurance programs. But he's also got a solid record of supporting workers and the middle class. As MB noted, he was one of just a handful of members who accepted "a Philadelphia group's challenge to try to live on a food-stamps budget for a month." So he gets it, as much as any Democratic member.
There's a strong push by Democratic members in both the House and the Senate for a real push for jobs, including a Super Congress to focus just on jobs creation. That jobs message is one President Obama is hearing from Democrats outside of Congress as well. Even from the bond market (h/t dday).
That might be enough to turn the tide for Democrats, including the president who will have plenty of pressure points on the commission, into holding a tough line on revenues and whatever stimulative drops they could squeeze out of this mess they've got themselves into. It'll mean keeping Baucus and Kerry in line, which is faint hope, but better than no hope.