WASHINGTON — Top US House of Representatives Democrat Nancy Pelosi on Thursday appointed three close allies to a "supercommittee" tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts over ten years.
Pelosi's naming of Democratic Representatives James Clyburn, Xavier Becerra, and Chris Van Hollen brought to full strength the 12-member panel that will be ground zero for the next wave of angry battles over the swollen US debt.
"The thrust of the committee must be to grow an American prosperity enjoyed by all Americans," Pelosi said in a statement that urged a "focus on economic growth and job creation that reduces the deficit."
Pelosi, who has vowed to protect social safety net programs especially dear to Democrats from the cost-cutter's axe, said the panel should "make decisions regarding investments, cuts and revenues and their timing to stimulate growth while reducing the deficit."
Top Republicans have vowed to kill any tax increases and said that any boost in revenues from tax code overhauls must be offset by cuts elsewhere, while Democratic leaders have pushed for raising taxes on the rich and corporations if government-backed health care or retirement programs face belt-tightening.
"We must achieve a 'grand bargain' that reduces the deficit by addressing our entire budget, while strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," said Pelosi, the House Democratic Minority Leader.
Clyburn, who is black, and Becerra, who is Hispanic, are the only minorities on the panel, while Democratic Senator Patty Murray, its co-chair, is the only woman.