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Deficit: The swirling political pressures on the Gang of 12

August 11, 2011 | 11:10 am

Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.), two members chosen by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) for a special committee on deficit reduction.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has named the final three members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- known in some circles as the "super committee" -- and they're all current or former members of the Democratic Party leadership. The most notable name for Angelenos: Rep. Xavier Becerra from California's 31st District, which runs from Eagle Rock and Highland Park southwest through Hollywood and Koreatown to South Los Angeles.

Becerra is the vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Pelosi's other picks are the assistant minority leader, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and top Democrat on the House Budget Committee (and former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

All three have held onto their seats repeatedly and easily. In each of his five races in the 31st District, Becerra has drawn more than 80% of the vote. Ordinarily, that kind of political job security would enable members to go further out on a limb to strike compromises. For Democrats, that means accepting more cuts to benefit programs and federal services and less of an increase in tax revenue.

Granted, 2012 will not be an ordinary election year. In addition to the uncertain effects of a fiery presidential campaign, the political calculus will be scrambled for many members by redistricting. That's particularly true for Becerra, who will be moving into a new 34th District that's concentrated in east Los Angeles. The 34th should be an easy seat for a Democrat to win; the question for Becerra is whether his work on the joint select committee increases the chance he'll face a tough primary challenge from a candidate on his left.

The same could be said for the Republican appointees on the committee, who are similarly close to their party's leadership. The countervailing political pressures only add to the challenge the group faces in coming up with a deal to shrink future deficits by more than $1.2 trillion over the coming decade. And the task was hard enough to start with.

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-- Jon Healey

Photo: Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), left, and James Clyburn (D-S.C.), two members chosen by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) for a special committee on deficit reduction. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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