Open Secrets of the Super Secret Super Committee

Here's what we know about the tight-lipped deficit slashers

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The only thing super about the bipartisan Super Committee tasked with reducing the federal deficit is its uncanny ability to keep a secret—from just about everybody. That's the consensus from "Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives in and out of Congress" according to The New York Times, and reporters and legislators aren't happy. When Super Committee members exit seven hour-long meetings, they "skitter away" from journalists waiting outside the door. In the report, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte slammed the process, saying “The American people deserve to know what is happening in this committee." So what do we know about the Super Committee? For starters, the bipartisan panel has until Nov. 23 to submit a plan for an up-or-down vote in the House and Senate, which votes in December. If they can't agree on a deal, it will automatically trigger $1.2 trillion in cuts split between defense and domestic programs. Outside of that, all other information has come from vague statements by the members and anonymous sources. Here's what we've learned so far:

August: The Super Committee is born In August, the committee was created as part of a deficit reduction deal between Republicans and Democrats to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. Campaign finance details about what groups and organizations were bankrolling the Super Committee members began being circulated.

Sept 30: The committee beings meeting in secret As Washington's curiosity heightened, the legislators stayed silent though many suspected they were meeting, as Noel Brinkerhoff at All Gov reported. Early calls for transparency came from John Wonderlich at the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group, who said members were meeting in secret and subsequently "denying that they’re holding meetings, in order to avoid longstanding requirements that those meetings be public"

October 2: A grand bargain is ruled out Politico's Manu Raju and John Bresnahan get the scoop from sources from Republican Senator Jon Kyl. They say a deal in the ballpark of $3 trillion or $4 trillion can't be reached because Republicans don't want a significant tax hike and Democrats don't want significant reductions in Social Security and Medicare.

After four private meetings and two public hearings, Kyl is convinced that the three House Democrats on the supercommittee — Reps. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Xavier Becerra of California and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland — are not interested in a deal on taxes because of their demands for more revenue, sources say. Kyl has not ruled out taking up tax reform as part of any supercommittee proposal, although he knows time is running short on those deliberations.

October 5: A deal is likely!  Sources told Reuters that Republicans were "open to talking about revenue increases" and members of the committee hinted that a deal could be made.

Democrat, Senator John Kerry, hinted that an outline for the negotiations had been sketched out.

"I don't want to discuss the framework. I don't think that's constructive," he said, adding, "We're obviously meeting a lot. We're going to become even more intense in those meetings now."

October 7: Committee members receive influx of cash It pays to be on the Super Committee. Susanna Kim at ABC News reports that the members "received over $83,000 from lobbying groups in the three weeks after being appointed to make $1.2 trillion in budget cuts."

October 10, a deal is unlikely! The Super Committee is gridlocked, reported Andrew Taylor at The Associated Press.

Democrats won't go for an agreement that doesn't include new tax revenue; Republicans are just as ardently antitax. The impasse over revenues means that Democrats won't agree to cuts to popular entitlement programs like Medicare ...

"There's been no movement on (new) revenues, and I'm not sure the Democrats will agree to anything without revenues," said a Democratic lobbyist who required anonymity to speak candidly.

October 10: Committee may slash Medicare Donna Smith at Reuters gets the scoop from a lobbyist who "has been following" the deliberations:

Medicare supplemental health plans, popular among politically powerful retirees, could come under the budget knife... The so-called "Medigap" insurance plans shield the elderly -- many living on fixed incomes -- from costly deductibles and other expenses not covered by the traditional fee-for-service Medicare healthcare program. "This one is clearly on the table," said a lobbyist...

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.