WASHINGTON (The Blaze/AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to name Sen. Patty Murray to co-chair a powerful "super committee" charged with finding more than $1 trillion in deficit cuts this fall, a Democratic official said Tuesday.
Murray will be joined by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., on the panel, which was established last week by hard-fought legislation to increase the national debt. Reid was scheduled to make the announcement Wednesday, the official said, speaking only on condition of anonymity because Reid's choices weren't official.
Murray, who is chairwoman of the committee to elect Democratic senators, is a longtime protector of Democratic priorities such as Medicare, Social Security and veterans' benefits, as are Kerry and Baucus.
In naming the trio, Reid opted against picking Democrats like Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota or Dick Durbin of Illinois, who backed curbs on Medicare spending and Social Security benefits as members of President Barack Obama's deficit commission. Baucus also served on the commission but voted against the controversial recommendations put forward by its co-chairs.
Reid is the first of four congressional leaders to make his picks to the panel. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will also name three members of the 12-member panel, which will be evenly divided between the two parties. They face an Aug. 16 deadline to name committee members.
The committee is charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion or more in budget savings over the coming decade, enough to match increases in the government's ability to borrow enough money to pay its bills through the beginning of 2013.
Boehner will name the other co-chair. Just as Reid chose a party loyalist, Boehner is likely to choose a stout conservative.
In a conference call Tuesday with rank and file House Republicans, Boehner said his three selections to the joint committee will be "people of courage who understand the gravity of this situation and are committed to doing what needs to be done," according an account provided by a House GOP aide. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., are among the names most frequently mentioned by congressional aides and lobbyists as Boehner's likely picks. Ryan and Camp were also deficit commission members but voted against the co-chairmen's recommendations, citing tax increases and inadequate cost curbs of federal health care programs.
Boehner also said he and other House and Senate leaders of both parties want the newly created panel to conduct "open hearings and a public process."