Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has
made his choice for the three Democratic Senators to sit on the Catfood Commission II: Patty Murray (WA), Max Baucus (MT) and John Kerry (MA).
Additionally, Murray is expected to co-chair the committee -- officially named the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- along with a still unnamed House Republican. A spokesman for Reid did not respond to a request for comment.
Reid’s decision to tap Murray will likely be met with scrutiny, as she is also chairing the Senate Democrats’ campaign operation for the 2012 election cycle. But she is also a member of leadership, a senior member of the Budget Committee, and a woman on what is likely to be a male-dominated committee.
It could be worse. For instance, Kent Conrad or Joe Manchin (who lobbied for the position) or Mark Warner would be worse, from the standpoint of protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid or raising taxes on rich people.
Max Baucus, a member of Catfood Commission I, voted no on the Bowles/Simpson non-recommendations, primarily because he thought it was bad for his rural constituents and the concerns of "veterans, seniors, ranchers, farmers and hard-working families." So that's something. On the other hand, he was talking Medicaid cuts during the debt-ceiling negotiations.
Murray, as chair of the DSCC for this cycle, could be a very helpful choice: She'll know as well as anyone the value of protecting the interests of regular people, and particularly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid recipients, in an election year. That might help stiffen the collective spine on the Democratic side of the table.
Kerry is actually a bit more concerning that you'd think he should be, since he was among those pushing the $4 trillion deficit cutting "grand bargain." The "United States must show the markets that it is 'deadly serious about dealing with its long-term structural debt,' he said, and the way to do that is by 'putting a plan on the table, $4 trillion plus, if necessary.'" So apparently he's an endorser of austerity these days.
It's not optimal from a "fighting Dem" standpoint, but it's not as bad as it could have been.
Update: Paul Blumenthal makes a disquieting point: