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Reid taps Sen. Murray to co-chair debt committee

From Deirdre Walsh, CNN
Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Max Baucus and Sen. John Kerry will serve on the congressional "super committee."
Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Max Baucus and Sen. John Kerry will serve on the congressional "super committee."
  • Boehner, McConnell and Pelosi have not yet made their picks
  • Congressional leaders have until August 16 to appoint members
  • Reid's other appointments are Sens. Max Baucus and John Kerry
  • A panel of 12 legislators will be created with members from both parties

Washington (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Tuesday that he would appoint Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts to the congressional "super committee," charged with crafting a plan to cut the country's deficit.

Murray, from Washington state, was tapped to co-chair the committee, Reid said in a statement.

"As the events of the past week have made clear, the world is watching the work of this committee. I am confident that Senators Murray, Baucus and Kerry will bring the thoughtfulness, bipartisanship and commitment to a balanced approach that will produce the best outcome for the American people," he said.

Under the debt ceiling deal passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama last week, a panel of 12 legislators -- six Democrats and six Republicans, equally divided between the House and Senate -- will be created to try to work out $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction after an initial round of more than $900 billion in spending cuts.

If the committee fails to reach agreement or Congress fails to pass whatever package it recommends, a trigger mechanism will enact further across-the-board cuts in government spending, including for the military.

In a joint statement issued soon after their appointments, Sens. Murray, Baucus and Kerry said that Americans want the committee to operate without "the red hot partisanship and brinkmanship of the last months."

"This is not going to be easy. Our challenge is to find common ground without damaging anyone's principles. We believe we can get there. This Committee was designed to require bipartisanship, and we are going to work hard with our Republican colleagues to attain it," they said.

In addition to Reid, other top congressional leaders -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- each get to appoint three members of Congress to serve on the powerful 12-person panel.

A Republican aide said Tuesday that Boehner, who will appoint the other committee co-chair, has "not yet" made his picks.

In a conference call with House Republicans earlier, Boehner said that he plans to make his decision "in the coming days," according to a participant on that call.

Another GOP aide said McConnell would make no announcement Tuesday on his appointments. Similarly, Pelosi has not yet said who she will select.

Congressional leaders have until August 16 to appoint members to the congressional committee, which is required to complete its work by November 23. Congress then has until December 23 to vote on the proposal, with no amendments permitted.

A simple majority on the panel -- seven of 12 members -- is needed to approve whatever package it comes up with, meaning that it will take a lone member of either party to push something through by voting with the other side. The committee's proposal would then need a simple majority in each chamber of Congress to make it to Obama's desk.

Late Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus slammed Reid's choice of Murray and asked the Senate leader to withdraw her appointment.

"Harry Reid's appointment of Patty Murray to Co-Chair the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is absolute proof that Democrats are not serious about deficit reduction. As Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Murray is the Senate Democrats' fundraiser-in-chief. The Select Committee is no place for someone whose top priority is fundraising and politics," he said in a statement.

CNN's Dan Lothian contributed to this report.