House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., did not get his wish to have a hawkish GOP member of his panel on the joint committee charged with coming up with a plan by Thanksgiving to cut the nation's deficit by $1.2 trillion. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, instead picked lawmakers with decidedly different interests and priorities. Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, chairman of the House Republican Conference, will co-chair the super committee, while the House GOP will also be represented by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp and Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, both of Michigan.
But the Defense Department, whose budget will almost certainly be on the table for cuts during the months-long negotiations, does have some strong boosters on the panel. They include co-chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, sits on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and is a strong Boeing backer. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., a well-known proponent of missile defense programs, is also on the panel, as is Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
What does the lineup mean for how the Defense Department will fare during the committee's negotiations? A senior Pentagon official recently told reporters that he hopes the committee will not look to the Defense Department, which the White House already plans to cut by $350 billion over the next decade, for more savings. Considering who will sit on the super committee, is that realistic? Or will the Pentagon's budget, which makes up more than half of all discretionary spending, be a prime target?