Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 | 11:54 a.m.
The success or failure of the joint deficit reduction committee depends on whether lawmakers can come together on a compromise plan to pay down $1.5 trillion of the national debt.
But the process is already dividing Nevada’s senators: Reid seems to have some faith in it, while Heller doesn’t.
“Everyone knows it was my idea, the super committee,” Harry Reid said Tuesday. As leader of the Senate Democrats, he outlined the select committee’s structure and powers as part of the debt ceiling compromise. “I’m very happy with the people that I was able to put on that committee. I’ve been very pleased with my conversations with all the other leaders.”
Republican Sen. Dean Heller though, has made himself the ringleader of a group of freshmen criticizing the bipartisan crew and calling for transparency, through letters, press releases, and press conferences.
“We cannot allow this committee to dissolve into a super-secret committee – its responsibility is much too great,” he said Wednesday morning before the debt committee’s first meeting. “We want this committee to open its process to the American people so Congress can readily accept a plan that puts our country back on the path to economic prosperity.”
Reid and Hellers differences, however, don’t reflect a partisan split.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also called for transparency last month, though she hasn’t beaten that drum as incessantly as Heller.
And the committee’s Republican co-chair attempted to tamp down Heller’s hackles in the opening remarks of the committee’s first meeting.
“There will be ample opportunities for the public to have their opinions heard,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, House Speaker John Boehner’s appointee to chair the committee with Reid’s pick, Sen. Patty Murray. “And like any other committee of Congress, there will be some conversations that will not be public.”
“Despite expectations of us, we are not the chosen twelve,” Rep. James Clyburn, a Pelosi appointee, later added.
The committee met Wednesday morning solely for the purpose of making opening statements and adopting a set of rules. Among the rules the committee adopted – unanimously – was a pledge to give seven days’ notice about all coming hearings.
The committee’s first substantive hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday.