Members Appointed to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction

August 18, 2011

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Both houses of Congress recently appointed members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction. The Joint Committee, created from the debt ceiling agreement, includes:

US Senate

  • Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee
  • Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the second-ranking member of the Republican Senate leadership
  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA, co-chair), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
  • Sen. Robert Portman (R-OH), served as Director of the Office of Management and Budget under the President George W. Bush administration
  • Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), member of the Joint Economic Committee

US House of Representatives

  • Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Vice-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus
  • Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee
  • Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), Assistant Democratic Leader
  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX, co-chair), Chairman of the House Republican Conference
  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking member of the House Budget Committee
  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee

The debt ceiling agreement called for a two-step increase in the debt limit balanced with two rounds of corresponding spending cuts—producing a total of $2.4 trillion reductions in spending over the next decade.

By November 23, 2011, the Joint Committee should present recommendations to Congress on how to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. These recommendations could include changes to Medicare and other entitlement programs, and negatively affect payments to physicians.

It's hard to predict what sort of entitlement reforms might be proposed but some analysts suggest the committee might entertain the following possibilities: changing Medicare eligibility criteria; improving the coordination of care for dual eligible beneficiaries; and cutting payments to providers for services that are thought to be overpriced.

Only a simple majority is needed to pass the committee’s proposal. In other words, one party only needs to get one of the other party’s members to agree.

If the joint committee fails to produce a proposal, an annual across-the-board cut of up to 2 percent to the Medicare program would be triggered automatically. These reductions would not be allowed to change beneficiary's premiums or restrict benefits. In other words, they would most likely negatively affect payments to physicians and other providers. The across-the-board cut would go into effect on January 2, 2013, and would continue through 2021.

Congress will have to either pass or reject the committee’s recommendations by December 23, 2012. During this time, the debt ceiling will be raised a second time—by an additional $1.5 trillion. It should be noted that no amendments will be allowed during debate of the committee's recommendations