Commentary Magazine


Republicans Appoint Fiscal and Defense Hawks to Super Committee

Mitch McConnell and John Boehner named their super committee appointments earlier today, and, other than the absence of Paul Ryan, the final list had few surprises.

Boehner avoided choosing any freshman or Tea Partiers, and instead tapped veteran Reps. Jeb Hensarling, Dave Camp and Fred Upton. When the Democrats call the House Republicans “hostage-takers,” these guys are not the ones they’re referring to. Upton and Camp are both members of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, and Hensarling is closely aligned with House Republican leadership.

Actually, Boehner’s choices might actually be more moderate than McConnell’s. The Senate Minority Leader appointed Sens. Pat Toomey, Rob Portman, and Jon Kyl – three senators who can be expected to hold the line on tax cuts or defense. Toomey and Portman are both strong fiscal hawks, and Kyl is arguably the most vocal and unyielding defense advocate in the Senate.

The Republican Senate picks also have another thing going for them: none of them will be weighed down by electoral politics. Toomey and Portman aren’t up for reelection until 2016, and Kyl has declined to run again in 2012. This could have two different effects on the negotiations. The senators might be more likely to compromise their conservative principles because they won’t have to worry about facing any primary challengers for at least another six years. Or, they could be more likely to stick to their principles because they don’t have an election looming over them.

Of course, it’s pretty impossible to predict what’s going to come out of these closed-door negotiations. Even lawmakers with perfect conservative records might end up signing onto an unpopular agreement, especially if it’s the only alternative to $600 billion in defense cuts. And with the Democrats also appointing hard-line liberals to the committee, there will have to be serious compromises somewhere. But at least we can assume these Republican appointees will do everything in their power to get the best possible deal out of it for conservatives.