Debt panel’s pressure grows with economic turmoil

Under the gun of a debt-ceiling vote, congressional leaders created a unique and powerful new “super committee” to fix U.S. debt problems. But it seems designed to fail, even as the stakes rose exponentially with last week's stock market turmoil and the threat of a double-dip recession.

With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, making her picks Thursday, the committee of 12 – split evenly between Democrats and Republicans – is complete. Its task is to find at least $1.5 trillion in savings over the next decade in taxes and entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security that party leaders were not able to make during the chaotic debt-ceiling negotiations.

“The stakes for the committee were pretty high a week ago, and they are much higher now,” said Bill Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and co-founder of No Labels, a new bipartisan group created to pressure leaders out of their partisan corners.

The financial turmoil came after Standard & Poor's lowered the U.S. government's credit rating a notch when the firm concluded that political gridlock in Washington was a serious impediment to the nation's ability to deal with its growing debt.

Failure by the committee to reach a bipartisan agreement “would reinforce the S&P logic of political risk,” Galston said. “Our world reputation for governance, our capacity to govern ourselves, is on the line.”

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