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What is the Super Congress?

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The Super Congress met in Washington to solve the nation's debt crisis in 2011.

Shaun Heasley / Getty Images
Updated November 20, 2011

The term Super Congress refers to a select group of 12 members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate chosen to identify ways to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

The Super Congress, or super committee, was created under the Budget Control Act of 2011. The law was passed by the U.S. Congress in the first two days of August 2011 to increase the nation's $14.294 trillion debt ceiling in order to avoid a potential default. It was the fourth increase of the mandatory borrowing cap in President Barack Obama's first term.

The Super Congress consists of six members of the House and Senate, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The House members were chosen by Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The Senate members were chosen by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The official name for the Super Congress is the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

Super Congress Members

The members of the Super Congress, and those who selected them, are:

  • U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. He was chosen for the Super Congress by Reid.
  • U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Democrat from California who is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He was selected by Pelosi.
  • U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, a Republican from Michigan who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. He was selected for the Super Congress post by Boehner.
  • U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina and the third-ranking Democrat in the House. He was chosen for the post by Pelosi.
  • U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Republican from Texas who chairs the House Republican Caucus. He serves as a co-chairman of the Super Congress. He was selected for the post by Boehner.
  • U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004. He was chosen for the Super Congress by Reid.
  • U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona who is the second highest-ranking Republican in the Senate Republican Caucus behind McConnell. He was appointed to the Super Congress by McConnell.
  • U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington who serves as chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Chosen by Reid, she will serve as co-chairman of the Super Congress.
  • U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio who served as the White House budget director under President George W. Bush. He was appointed to the Super Congress by McConnell.
  • U.S. Sen. Pay Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania who once chaired the anti-tax group Club For Growth. He was appointed to the Super Congress by McConnell.
  • U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He was selected for the Super Congress post by Boehner.
  • U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. He was appointed to the Super Congress by Pelosi.

Super Congress Responsibilities

The Budget Control Act of 2011 immediately raised the nation's debt ceiling by $400 billion, to $14.694 trillion, so the federal government could meet spending obligations previously approved by Congress.

See also: Debt Ceiling History

But it required the Super Congress to find ways to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion before the end of 2011. If the panel's plan is approved by Congress, the debt ceiling can be increased by the same amount. If the committee fails in its mission, automatic spending cut measures will be triggered.

Proposals from the Super Congress would be placed on a fast track through the House and Senate, with no allowance for the legislation to be amended by lawmakers.

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