Reid picks his Super Committee team

Before the debt-ceiling agreement had even reached the Oval Office, the behind-the-scenes wrangling was already underway on the makeup of the so-called “Super Committee” — the bipartisan panel that is doomed to fail will work of identifying $1.5 trillion in debt-reduction savings.

Each of Congress’ top four members — Harry Reid, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Nancy Pelosi — will pick three members for the 12-person committee. Yesterday, the Senate Majority Leader went first in announcing his selections.

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, will be co-chairwoman of a powerful new Congressional committee that is supposed to recommend at least $1.5 trillion of additional deficit-reduction measures, the Senate majority leader announced Tuesday.

The leader, Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, also appointed two other Democratic senators, Max Baucus of Montana and John Kerry of Massachusetts, to the panel.

Mr. Baucus is chairman of the Finance Committee, which has authority over Medicare, Medicaid and taxes — three prime areas of attention for the new 12-member panel, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

Mr. Kerry, the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2004, is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Mrs. Murray, who won a tough re-election race last year, is a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Budget Committee.

If it were entirely up to me, these three probably wouldn’t be at the top of the Super Committee wish list, but I’m not terribly disappointed, either.

Kerry is generally a progressive champion, and though he’s expressed some support for the so-called “Grand Bargain,” which I think was a mistake, Kerry seems likely to push for liberal priorities on the panel. Murray is also a reliably consistent voice for the left, has repeatedly demanded a “balanced” approach to debt reduction, and as the current chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, she’ll probably be mindful of the party’s 2012 campaign strategy as the process continues.

It’s Baucus who stands out, however. The Montanan has a well-deserved reputation as a Democratic centrist and the kind of veteran lawmaker who knows how to strike deals. If it was inevitable that there’d be at least one Democratic moderate on the Super Committee, Baucus strikes me as preferable to some of the alternatives — he opposed Simpson/Bowles from the left; he’s protective of the Affordable Care Act; he hated Bush’s Social Security scheme; and in the Biden-led talks, Baucus was only willing to support entitlements cuts in exchange for new revenue.

I fully appreciate why phrases like these are unsatisfying, but this group of Senate Dems definitely could have been worse. (You’ll notice, by the way, that none of the Gang of Six Dems made the cut.)

For the record, I don’t doubt that the Super Committee will generate plenty of coverage and drama, but there’s every reason to believe this process won’t amount to much. Democrats will push for a balanced approach; Republicans will refuse; and the debate will turn to whether to pass a new law to prevent the trigger from being pulled. I’m yet to see an explanation as to how this panel can accomplish anything — over a fairly short period of time — so long as the GOP doesn’t believe in compromise.

As for the rest of the committee, the other congressional leaders have until August 16 (next Tuesday) to make their selections.