John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Credibility vs. Crassness

Posted on August 10, 2011
John Boehner and Mitch McConnell put some real thought into their picks for the Joint Super Committee that will decide the fate of so many spending programs and perhaps the financial health of the country.

Harry Reid? Not so much.

Boehner picked two real deal-makers in Dave Camp and Fred Upton, and a guy who learned how to drive a hard-bargain from the best hard-bargainer in the business (Phil Gramm) in Jeb Hensarling.

Neither Camp nor Upton are partisan bomb-throwers. Upton ran into some resistance from the hard right to his ascension to the Energy and Commerce Committee because he was viewed as too moderate, although Fred has been a very reliable conservative in his role as Chairman.

Upton has long experience in budget politics, having served at OMB under Reagan. He is also an expert on entitlement programs, and his appointment shows that Boehner is serious about getting serious on spending.

Camp has been very thoughtful in his new role as Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He said that he wasn’t going to jam the Ryan Medicare bill through the House only to see it die in the Senate, a signal to the world that Camp was no Kamikaze pilot on smashing the Republican Majority into a Senate cliff.

Hensarling cannot be called a moderate in any way, shape or form, but he appeared to be the moderate in the race when he ran for his leadership position against Michelle Bachmann. Jeb has a good head on his shoulders, and as a former staffer to Texas Senator Gramm, he learned the art of cutting a good deal.

McConnell also signaled that he is taking this whole exercise very seriously. He covered his right flank by putting Pat Toomey, the Pennsylvania Senator, on the panel. Toomey forced Arlen Spector to leave the Republican Party and while he is a Tea Party favorite, he was an anti-spending hawk well before the Tea Party was ever born.

Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican, represents the best that the party can offer when it comes to substance, demeanor, message discipline and courage. He is well-liked by the other side, he is an adult, and he won’t have the patience to make this merely a partisan game. He wants to get good stuff done. That was his reputation in the House and it will be his reputation in the Senate.

By picking the retiring Jon Kyl, McConnell not only picked somebody who understands where the GOP leadership is coming from, he also picked somebody who is immune to political pressure. He is retiring at the end of the Congress, and for his legacy, I am certain he would like to get good policy done.

Reid showed his hand by putting his campaign chief in charge of the negotiations. That is all you really need to know about where the Senate Majority leader is on this process.

Patty Murray’s job is to run campaign commercials against Republicans. She isn’t steeped in policy. She is steeped in politics. Her appointment makes it very unlikely that the Democrats will budge on anything. They want gridlock because they want to cut defense spending. That is the message I get from her appointment.

John Kerry has proven to be an effective attack dog since he lost his chance to be President. He was the first to try to pin the Obama downgrade on the Tea Party, for example. He is also a very political appointment.

Max Baucus apparently begged, pleaded and cajoled Reid to be named to the Super Committee, despite some reservations from the Left about his willingness to cut deals on taxes. But my guess is that Mr. Reid got some pretty strong assurances that the Montana Senator won’t be doing any free-lancing once this thing gets going.

As I write this, Minority Leader Pelosi has been the last to name her folks. You can bet that she won’t name Steny Hoyer to committee. My guess is that she names Chris Van Hollen, Xavier Beccera, and John Lewis to the Committee, but I could be wrong. She might also name Steve Israel, the Congressional campaign chair, or Jan Schakowsky, an ally and a reliable liberal to the Committee.

So far, the Republicans look like they want to get a deal. Their picks are credible. The Democrats look like they are mostly interested in playing politics. But of course, that is no surprise.

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