Factbox: Top contenders for deficit super committee

Tue Aug 9, 2011 7:38pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Three Senate Democrats -- Max Baucus, John Kerry and Patty Murray -- were named by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday to serve on a 12-member "super committee" being set up to address deficit issues.

Here are facts about the three Democrats, as well as a list of other lawmakers seen by analysts and congressional aides as front-runners for the nine committee slots still to be filled.

The panel will have six Democrats and six Republicans, split evenly between the Senate and the House of Representatives. The deadline for choosing members is August 16.

SUPER COMMITTEE MEMBERS NAMED

SENATE DEMOCRATS

MAX BAUCUS: A centrist leader known for his ability to work across party lines, Baucus is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and has urged tax reform. He was a member of the 2010 Bowles-Simpson deficit commission formed by President Barack Obama. Baucus voted against the final Bowles-Simpson proposals because they would have cut benefits for the elderly and veterans and hurt his largely rural home state of Montana by raising gasoline prices. He fought President George W. Bush's push to privatize Social Security and is a critic of a House Republican plan to privatize Medicare for future retirees.

JOHN KERRY: The unsuccessful 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, Kerry is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Finance Committee member. The Massachusetts senator has called for "a serious dialogue about our fiscal situation, discretionary spending, entitlements and revenues. We need a long-term solution to reduce both our current budget deficit and our staggering debt."

PATTY MURRAY: Named by Reid to be co-chair of the super committee, Murray of Washington state is Senate Democratic Conference secretary and a key member of the Senate leadership. She is a member of the budget and appropriations committees.

FRONT-RUNNERS FOR REMAINING NINE SLOTS

SENATE REPUBLICANS

ROB PORTMAN: A first-term senator from Ohio, he knows the budget and tax debate after working for Bush as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Fellow Republican Senator John McCain said he would pick Portman for the super committee. When Portman was in the House, he served on the Budget Committee and tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

JEFF SESSIONS: The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, he is an Alabama conservative who has had an open mind about closing some tax loopholes. During the debt limit debate, he was a sharp critic of Obama's economic policies.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS

XAVIER BECERRA: A rank-and-file party lieutenant, the vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus sits on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He is close to fellow Californian and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. He was on the Bowles-Simpson panel and opposed its final report. A solid liberal, Becerra also has ties to the White House. At the start of Obama's presidency, he was offered the job of U.S. trade representative, which he turned down.

CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Another party stalwart, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee was part of a bipartisan group led by Vice President Joe Biden that tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to forge a deficit deal. From Maryland, he is former chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee and also is a Pelosi confidant.

JAMES CLYBURN: The senior member of the South Carolina delegation to Congress, he is a top member of the House Democratic leadership and a Pelosi ally. Clyburn also is an influential member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

ALLYSON SCHWARTZ: The second-highest ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, she is a rank-and-file Democrat who represents Pennsylvania. She has aligned herself with moderates in her party and has focused on healthcare issues.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS

DAVE CAMP: The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee wants to balance the budget without raising taxes. This is a key Republican goal and one that most budget experts say cannot be met without devastating budget cuts. Last week Camp said the super committee would not be the best forum for tax reform. He was on the Bowles-Simpson panel and opposed its final recommendations. He said they failed to address rising healthcare costs and included tax increases that would impede economic growth.

ERIC CANTOR: The House Republican leader was a key player in the debt ceiling talks, living up to his reputation as an aggressive partisan unlikely to compromise. On August 8, he said: "There will be pressure to compromise on tax increases. We will be told that there is no other way forward. I respectfully disagree ... We were not elected to raise taxes." He has positioned himself as an advocate of Tea Party activists in the House.

JEB HENSARLING: As a conservative House Republican, he has pushed for a moratorium on earmarks and proposed capping federal spending at 20 percent of the size of the U.S. economy every year. Another Bowles-Simpson member, he also opposed its recommendations.

PAUL RYAN: The Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee wrote a plan to slash Medicare costs and benefits. Democrats say they won a May off-cycle congressional election in upstate New York by campaigning against Ryan's plan. Naming him to the super committee could put his plan back in play, a risky move. Ryan was a Bowles-Simpson commissioner and voted against its final recommendations.

(Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh, Richard Cowan, Donna Smith, Thomas Ferraro and Dave Clarke in Washington; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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