Super Committee Gets Ready for Its First Hearing

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Charged with trimming the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, members talk strategy and prepare to begin official meetings before Sept. 16

Baucus Kerry Murray.jpg

The six Democratic members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction met by conference call Wednesday to discuss political strategy and administrative plans, aides said.

The Democrats discussed logistics, including meeting schedules and a timeline for their work, said one aide. They also continued talks on their strategy "for working with Republicans to come together around a balanced and bipartisan plan," said the aide.

The conference call follows a meeting on Tuesday among the six committee Republicans. The 12-member super committee was created as part of a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling. The law requires the panel to meet by Sept. 16 and recommend by Thanksgiving cuts worth $1.5 trillion over 10 years. If its recommendations are not adopted, spending cuts worth $1.2 trillion over 10 years would be automatically imposed. Half of those would target defense spending, while entitlements would be mostly exempted.

On Tuesday, super committee co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) announced the hiring of Mark Prater, the Senate Finance Committee's deputy staff director and minority chief tax counsel, as staff director for the new panel.

Aides to committee Democrats said they expect in coming days to announce one or more additional hires, a hearing schedule, the location of a committee office space, and transparency rules for the committee. Lawmakers in both parties have urged the committee to deliberate as openly as possible.

In addition to Murray, committee Democrats include Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Assistant House Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, and Rep. Xavier Becerra of California.

Committee Republicans on Tuesday discussed past deficit-reduction proposals, Hensarling said in a statement. The Republicans also discussed administrative matters during the session, GOP aides said. Republican members include Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan. Members in both parties are aware they have just 11 weeks to act once Congress returns from its August recess next week. Divergent House and Senate schedules leave relatively little time before Thanksgiving when both chambers are slated to be in session.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday told the American Legion National Convention in Minneapolis that House Democrats on the panel will be cognizant of the nation's unemployment problem as they look for ways to cut the deficit.

"In the weeks ahead, Congress will take up the budget at the table of 12," said Pelosi. "I want the American Legion and all of America to know that the values of America's veterans will be present at the table. That America's veterans will not be shortchanged as we reduce the deficit. That job creation and economic growth must prevail."

Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images (Baucus), Chet Susslin/National Journal (Kerry and Murray)

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Dan Friedman & Billy House

Dan Friedman is a staff writer (Senate leadership) for National Journal. Bill House is a staff writer (Congress) for National Journal.

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