Supercommittee takes shape and most of congress takes a break

Supercommittee members have been appointed — no capes spotted so far.

All the appointments have been made to the Supercommittee that was authorized by the Budget Control Act. Some call the group the Gang of 12.

Co-chairs are Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). Other members are: Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), John Kerry (D-MA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and Reps Dave Camp (R-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI, James Clyburn (D-SC), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

The job of the Supercommittee is to identify $1.5 trillion in additional budget cuts (revenues not excluded: and that will surely be a big topic of conversation) by Thanksgiving of this year. If Congress does not pass legislation instituting these cuts by December 23, the law provides for automatic across-the-board cuts in defense and non-defense accounts.

Even though it is much quieter than usual and is otherwise a typical August in Washington, Congress is not quite in recess . Why not? Some members of the Republican Study Committee in the House and Senate wanted to prevent President Obama from making any recess appointments. So while most members of Congress have left town, the RSC members are taking turns gaveling the Senate and House into brief pro forma sessions on Tuesdays and Fridays, and conduct no business. During the latter part of George W. Bush’s presidency, the Senate sometimes used the same practice. It’s just more evidence, if we needed more evidence, that the executive and legislative branches are playing hardball with each other.

CORRECTION: The August 2 entry below said, incorrectly, that the Commerce-Science appropriations bill has passed in the House. It hasn’t yet come before the House for a vote, but was reported out by the Appropriations Committee. That entry has been corrected.