I was fairly certain that the Catfood Commission II, the new bipartisan supercommittee of 12 that will find at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction recommendations, which will then get fast-tracked through Congress, would be referred to colloquially as the “Conrad-Ryan Commission.” The heads of the Budget Committees of each house of Congress would get appointed as the co-chairs. But according to Sam Stein, that isn’t so:

According to multiple Democratic sources, Senate Democratic leaders are winnowing down the names on the short list and they are leaning strongly against including some of the party’s most notable budget hawks.

Two senators, in particular, were said to be unlikely to end up on the committee: Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who chairs the Finance Committee, and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who chairs the Budget Committee […]

“The committee is built for failure — everyone will either stack it with loyalists to leadership and the caucuses or with partisan firebrands to make sure those folks defend key priorities,” said one of those aides. “If they don’t, they will immediately regret it. You need grown-up smart pros that know the issues, know the caucus position and will not waver.”

How this squares with the notion that Mark Warner, mentioned later in the piece, would be selected, is unclear, since he spearheaded the Gang of Six and is just as dedicated to buckling on entitlements as Conrad. That quote above could just be someone trying to influence the selection process.

The Washington Post has Baucus and Conrad as front-runners for the committee, along with Patty Murray and Jack Reed. Without Baucus or Conrad, the only natural co-chairman for the committee would be Dan Inouye, the chair of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the Biden talks during the debt limit debate.

In that same article, Xavier Becerra from the Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission I is seen as a front-runners to be chosen by Nancy Pelosi, along with Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen. That’s probably right, but the options for the third slot – defense industry shill Norm Dicks, new Dem Allyson Schwartz – are harrowing. Meanwhile, the Republicans will choose from a slate of ideological purity: people like Ryan, Rep. Dave Camp of the Ways and Means Committee, Jeb Hensarling, Senate leadership figure Jon Kyl, Rob Portman, and ranking Senate Budget Committee member Jeff Sessions.

But the Republican choices are not as cruical. There’s almost no daylight between their caucus, and you can expect six anti-tax, strong national defense Republicans to serve on the panel. They will all follow the advice of Eric Cantor, who provided courage to his caucus yesterday:

“Over the next several months, there will be tremendous pressure on Congress to prove that S&P’s analysis of the inability of the political parties to bridge our differences is wrong,” Cantor wrote. ” In short, there will be pressure to compromise on tax increases. We will be told that there is no other way forward. I respectfully disagree…. I firmly believe we can find bipartisan agreement on savings from mandatory programs that can be agreed to without tax increases. I believe this is what we must demand from the Joint Committee as it begins its work.”

It’s on the Democratic side, where you run the gamut from Bernie Sanders to Joe Manchin, where the tale of the Catfood Commission II will be told.

David Dayen

David Dayen