UPDATE: Yes, there is an African-American legislator — and a Latino lawmaker — on the “super committee.” On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced her picks. They are Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Xavier Beccera of California and (as The Root suggested below) James Clyburn of South Carolina.
Now that Congress has avoided a federal default by agreeing to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts, its leaders are working on the next phase of the plan: creating a “super committee,” charged with cutting $1.5 trillion from the deficit by Nov. 23. This week the panel, which will have six Democrats and six Republicans split evenly between the House and Senate, began to take shape.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got the Democratic side started with the announcement that he will appoint Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Max Baucus of Montana and John Kerry of Massachusetts. On Wednesday, Republican leaders filled their spots. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Sens. John Kyl of Arizona, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio. House Speaker John Boehner went with Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Dave Camp of Michigan, and Fred Upton of Michigan.
Now all eyes are on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who so far has kept her selections close to the vest. But Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver has some ideas on what she ought to keep in mind.
“I just wrote a note to send to Nancy Pelosi,” Cleaver told The Root on Wednesday. “I said that, ‘Based on my experience with you, there’s little doubt that you are going to appoint a diverse committee from the House Democratic Caucus.’ The bad part of this is that all of the [racial] diversity among the 12 participants falls on her. But there’s probably not been one second during which she did not plan to appoint a diverse trio.”
Christian Dorsey, director of external and government affairs for the Economic Policy Institute, said that having an African-American lawmaker on the committee is critical. “I think it’s incredibly important to not only have a committee charged with reflecting America’s various political values, but reflecting America’s geographic and racial sensibilities,” he told The Root. “These decisions are going to essentially dictate how discretionary spending occurs in this country for the next decade, and if you don’t have people who represent communities who are comprised significantly of people of color, then you don’t really have a super committee that’s representing America.”
Dorsey argued that, since many black lawmakers live in majority-black districts with extremely high unemployment rates, they would be inclined to find deficit solutions that don’t inflict additional pain on struggling Americans and that provide room to invest in job creation. Cleaver agrees — although he adds that plenty of nonblack House Democrats would be able to do that, too.
“It doesn’t necessarily take anyone African American to identify with the poor,” Cleaver said. “But I think the absence of an African American clearly sets off alarm bells to not only the CBC but to the nation.”
There’s certainly no shortage of black lawmakers who are well-versed on economic issues. Here’s a rundown of those who could potentially be under super-committee consideration, what they’d add to the mix and where they stand on Congress’ latest debt decisions.