* In Senate, Republicans talk up ex-OMB chief Portman
* GOP Gang of Six members may be non-contenders--aides
* Bills demand campaign gift disclosure, open meetings
By Kevin Drawbaugh
WASHINGTON, Aug 8 Shaken by a historic U.S.
debt downgrade, markets looked for signs that a congressional
deficit reduction "super committee" would produce a fiscal
policy breakthrough, but they were likely to be disappointed.
The panel -- whose 12 members must be named within one week
-- was expected to do the bare minimum required of it, then
kick the truly tough tax and entitlement reform issues down the
road into 2012 and 2013, aides and analysts said on Monday.
The committee's direction will largely be set within days
by the selection of its members, a job left up to congressional
leaders seen as intent on naming loyalists who will not divert
from party doctrines. Early favorites were starting to emerge.
Republicans were talking up Senator Rob Portman, who was a
top Bush administration budget official, as an appointee.
Congressional aides and lobbyists said Portman, who headed
President George W. Bush's Office of Management and Budget in
2006 and 2007, is loyal and knows the budget and the tax code.
"He'll hold the line on key GOP priorities, but do it in
the most reasonable and agreeable way," one lobbyist said.
The panel is tasked with finding an additional $1.5
trillion in budget savings by Nov. 23. Its recommendations must
be voted on by Congress by Dec. 23. If either deadline goes
unmet, automatic spending cuts are triggered in 2013.
The Standard & Poor's downgrade of U.S. debt last week
"will certainly place added pressure on the committee to tackle
tax and entitlement reform," said FBR Capital Markets policy
analyst Ed Mills.
But like other analysts, he forecast that the likeliest
outcome will be for the panel to hit its minimum budget savings
target to avoid triggering automatic spending cuts.
"S&P's downgrading of the United States' credit score from
AAA to AA+ on Friday night has triggered a political
firestorm," said MF Global policy analyst Chris Krueger.
The super committee has "an even larger spotlight now," he
said. "The membership of the 12-person committee will be the
best leading indicator of what to expect when the deficit
reduction recommendations are due at Thanksgiving."
FACTBOX-Contenders for super committee [ID:nN1E7721BX]
FACTBOX-Tax breaks on reform hit list [ID:nN1E7701SV]
TAKE A LOOK-U.S. budget and debt deal [ID:nUSBUDGET]
The 12-member panel will have six Republicans and six
Democrats -- half from the Senate; half from the House.
Demands were also building for an open process in the
deficit panel, which is expected be the most heavily lobbied
body in Washington over the next four months and a potential
gold mine of campaign donations for its members.
Senate Republicans filed bills that would require lawmakers
to disclose campaign contributions more quickly while they are
panel members, and to make panel meetings open to the public.
The senior leaders of both chambers -- Senate Democratic
Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell,
House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy
Pelosi -- are very unlikely to serve on the panel, aides said.
But they will pick its members and rumors were flying in
and around their offices about front-runners.
'GANG OF SIX' OFF THE LIST?
Republicans who were part of the Senate's bipartisan "Gang
of Six" earlier this year were seen as unlikely to be named.
This group in mid-July offered an ambitious but failed $3.75
trillion deficit reduction plan including tax code changes that
hard-line Republicans viewed as unacceptable.
If the "gang" is "off the list" of Republican contenders
for the panel, as some say, then Republican senators Tom
Coburn, Mike Crapo and Saxby Chambliss would not be named.
Some aides saw Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Budget
Committee Republican, as a contender.
In the House of Representatives, aides pointed to
Democratic Party stalwarts Chris Van Hollen, James Clyburn and
Xavier Becerra as possible appointees, as well as Allyson
Schwartz, a senior budget committee member.
House Republican front-runners were seen as Paul Ryan, Eric
Cantor and Dave Camp, as well as Jeb Hensarling.
(Editing by Howard Goller and Doina Chiacu)