August 10, 2011 / 5:05 PM / 6 years ago

Six Republicans named to U.S. deficit super panel

* Committee seeks bipartisan accord on deficit reduction

* Senate Republicans tap Kyl, Portman, Toomey

* House Republicans name Camp, Hensarling, Upton

* Three slots remain to be filled by House Democrats

By Kevin Drawbaugh and Donna Smith

WASHINGTON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Republicans named six members on Wednesday to a U.S. congressional deficit-reduction super committee that was set up to seek bipartisan agreement on taxes and government spending.

The panel is known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and was established to find $1.5 trillion in additional budget savings over 10 years, but markets have been looking for signs that it may be able to do even more.

Senators Jon Kyl, Rob Portman and Patrick Toomey were selected by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for inclusion on the high-profile 12-member panel.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, appointed Representatives Dave Camp, Jeb Hensarling and Fred Upton.

Like a trio of Senate Democrats named to the panel on Tuesday, the six Republicans are a diverse group, ranging from Toomey, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, to Portman, a budget expert.

Expectations for a fiscal policy breakthrough by the panel were on the rise as markets whipsawed through the week following a historic downgrade of U.S. debt and a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling that only postponed tough decisions.

"All three of these nominees understand the gravity of our situation and all three will bring the kind of responsibility, creativity and thoughtfulness that the moment requires," said McConnell in a statement.

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Senate Democrats were first out of the gate on Tuesday with their appointments to the panel. They were Senators Max Baucus, John Kerry and Patty Murray, a trio that analysts said sent a mixed message about the panel's potential. [ID:nN1E7781VW]

The three remaining slots are to be filled by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi by Tuesday.

AN EYE ON ELECTIONS

"The selections to the super committee all have an eye towards politics and the 2012 election," said FBR Capital Markets policy analyst Ed Mills in a reference to presidential and congressional elections in November of next year.

"All of the members selected are serious legislators, but also members who will have no problem protecting their party's base ... These selections do give the committee the ability to develop the savings required in the debt deal, but I still believe it is unlikely we get the grand bargain," he said.

Facing unprecedented deficit and debt challenges, Congress has failed in recent years to muster the will to reform the convoluted U.S. tax code or address long-term funding problems for the Medicare and Medicaid health programs and the Social Security retirement pension program.

The tax code, riddled with hundreds of loopholes for corporations and individuals, has not been comprehensively overhauled since President Ronald Reagan did it in 1986.

While some Democrats dispute the urgency of the need for reforming entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, it is widely acknowledged that a demographic tidal wave is fast closing in on the programs as baby boomers age.

The recent recession and prolonged economic weakness have reduced government tax revenues, worsening a budget deficit that expanded hugely under President George W. Bush and has grown further under President Barack Obama.

"Our debt and deficits are a threat to our economy, and America cannot achieve long-term job growth until we take action to address this crisis," Boehner said in a statement.

"This joint committee presents an opportunity for both parties to bring to the table their best ideas, debate them on the merits, and ultimately come together to do what's best for our country," he said. (Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Howard Goller)

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