Camp selected to debt crisis panel

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, who represents Mecosta and Osceola counties as part of Michigan’s Fourth Congressional District, was named as one of three House Republicans to sit on a 12-member, bipartisan committee on deficit reduction.

House Speaker John Boehner also appointed U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, who represents southwest Michigan.

“If we are successful in curbing the overspending in Washington that has sparked fear in the financial markets and created uncertainty on Main Street, we will start to see the job creation we desperately need,” said Camp, R-Midland. “Last Friday’s downgrade of our debt by (Standard & Poor’s) is a strong reminder of how important it is for this committee to focus on restoring confidence in America.”

Together, six Republicans and six Democrats from both chambers have to reach an agreement by Nov. 23 on cutting the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion or more either through spending cuts, new revenue or a combination of the two. If they can’t agree, or if their agreement is voted down in either chamber or vetoed by President Barack Obama, the same amount of cuts will be implemented across the board, with half coming from defense.

Across the board cuts are “not going to be as favorable” to anyone’s position as an agreement, Camp said Wednesday, according to the Detroit Free Press. “It’s a real motivator for the committee to do its work.”

That work is still daunting. With less than four months in which to come up with a formula for balancing spending on voter-sensitive programs like Medicare and Social Security – as well as the rest of government – with the amount of money the Internal Revenue Service collects. Democrats have been arguing for more tax revenue and limiting cuts; Republicans want more cuts and less tax dollars.

“They understand the gravity of our debt crisis,” Boehner said of his picks.

Brian Thiede, chair of the Mecosta County Republican Party, said he was pleased that the local area would be represented by Camp.

“He’s very competent and that gives me the confidence that this committee can make some real achievements,” he said.

Such “achievements” would include making long-term changes to entitlement programs and keeping the size of government under control, Thiede said.

In particular, he would like the committee bring certainty to the tax policy. This will allow businesses and individuals to “anticipate the rules of the game,” in turn encouraging economic growth.

Camp, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, had been seen as a logical pick. In office since 1991, he’s spent most of the intervening years on the committee, honing an understanding of tax law and trade issues. Most recently, he has been among those calling for a wholesale rewrite of the nation’s complex tax laws – a theme also sounded by the Democratic president – though, as Camp said Wednesday, he believes spending needs to be curtailed and federal revenues held back.

By doing so and getting rid of costly loopholes and exemptions, Camp says the nation could spur job growth.

“I’ve been very interested in fundamental tax reform because that’s how we grow our economy,” he added.

Getting rid of special exemptions in the tax code should allow Congress to lower rates and still bring in as much money and made the system much more fair. That has to be accompanied with spending cuts, including how to reform Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – programs that just about everyone in Washington agrees are on an unsustainable path without more money or less being spent on them.

Upton is seen as more of a surprise pick, but he brings some important experience to the job. First, he’s chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a panel with a huge policy sweep. That sweep includes Medicare and health care policies, which will be a big part of the discussions.

“I saw firsthand that sound economic policy is the bedrock of job creation and fiscal responsibility,” Upton said in a statement. “And as chairman, I know the exploding cost of health care is at the root of our long-term fiscal challenges.”

Upton was long seen as a more moderate member of his party, unafraid to take independent stances. Once the chairmanship of the committee was in his grasp, he was widely seen to take more of a conservative position and has spent his months in office peppering federal agencies with questions about health care reform and environmental regulations.

The new committee’s membership is almost complete. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made his three Democratic selections – Max Baucus of Montana, John Kerry of Massachusetts and, as co-chair, Patty Murray of Washington. Shortly following Boehner’s selections on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed three more Republicans – John Kyl from Arizona, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio.

That only leaves House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to fill out the committee with her three Democratic picks.

Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said he hopes Camp and Upton look out for their home state. To his way of thinking, that means balancing spending reductions and revenues and avoiding cuts to social entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He worried, however, that influence by the more conservative tea party factions in the House may sway Camp and Upton on the committee.

“Frankly, they need to look beyond the narrow parochial interests of the tea party,” Brewer said.

Camp said it’s a short time frame in which to work but that the committee can build off the work of the Senate’s so-called Gang of Six talks as well as the bipartisan committee convened last year by the White House and the group from Congress brought together in the most recent debt limit debates by Vice President Joe Biden.