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Congressional Debt Committee Lineup in Place, but Will It Go After Two Parties' Sacred Cows?

 

Just hours after the final three members of Congress' deficit-reduction committee were announced, the so-called "super committee" came under fire at the GOP presidential debate in Iowa.

The committee, tasked with finding up to $1.5 trillion in cuts, got a high-profile slap from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: "The idea of 523 senators and congressmen are going to sit around for four months while 12 brilliant people, mostly picked for political reasons, are going to sit in some room and brilliantly come up with a trillion dollars or force us to choose between gutting our military and accepting a tax increase is irrational."

"They're going to walk in just before Thanksgiving and say, 'All right, we can shoot you in the head or cut off your right leg, which do you prefer?'" Gingrich added to laughter from the audience.

The committee is being co-chaired by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and House Republican Jeb Hensarling of Texas.

Sen. John Kerry, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, and moderate Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., are the other Democratic senators.

The House Democrats on the panel are liberals Xavier Hernandez of California, James Clyburn of South Carolina and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who will likely argue for raising taxes and protecting entitlements.

And Jim Manley, a long-time aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, says the key to reforming the system is taking a look at the sacred cows of both parties. He told Fox News, "Everything should be on the table and not only entitlement reform but also revenue, as well. ... The fact is we really can't have a serious look at reforming the system until we look at entitlements."

He added, "I personally hope that they'll go further than closing so-called loop holes and provide some additional revenue by raising taxes on upper-income individuals for instance."

Other Republicans rounding out the committee include fiscal conservative Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton -- both of Michigan and both chairmen of key committees in the House. Camp chairs the House Ways and Means Committee while Upton heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Senate Republicans are Jon Kyl of Arizona, Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and all are expected to hold the line on taxes.

Toomey weighed in on the issue on Friday's "Fox and Friends."

"There are tremendous inefficiencies in our tax code. All kinds of deductions and write-offs and special interest loopholes that we really ought to clean out and then correspondingly lower the marginal rates so that we encourage investment and economic growth," he said.

A former aide to Kyl is already trying to find a swing vote for the GOP.

"Having an even committee can produce gridlock in Washington," Ron Bonjean told Fox News, "and there are a couple members on the committee that could ... sway a vote or two."

The committee will undoubtedly encounter tremendous pressure from both parties to cut a deal, with high unemployment and the recent volatility in the financial markets. In addition, there's also the threat of across-the-board spending cuts if the group fails.

And if they fail? Bonjean says it paints a gloomy picture.

"The markets will likely go through another volatile time that we've just seen after the last debt ceiling increase. Failure to achieve victory over Washington spending means uncertainty in the business community and uncertainty in the marketplace, and that is going to scare a lot of people."

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.