US Deficit Panel Chiefs Strike Conciliatory Theme In Meeting
–US Deficit Panel Co-Chairs Vow Open Process
–Rep. Hensarling, Sen. Murray Say Rules Will Allow For Private Talks
–Rep. Hensarling: Need $1.5 Trillion ‘Bipartisan’ Deficit Cut Plan
–Sen. Murray: Must Be ‘Open To Compromise’ For Deficit Deal
–Republican Members Say Focus Must Be On Controlling Spending
–Democratic Members Say Talks Should Include Job Promotion
By John Shaw
WASHINGTON (MNI) – The co-chairmen of Congress’s special committee
on deficit reduction struck conciliatory themes Thursday in the panel’s
first meeting, saying a bipartisan effort is needed to craft a $1.5
trillion deficit reduction plan.
The panel’s co-chairs, Democratic senator Patty Murray and
Republican congressman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, said the panel’s proceedings
will be open but added the committee’s rules will allow for private
meetings among panel members to forge a compromise.
The first session was devoted to establishing the panel’s rules and
allowing the 12 members of the committee to deliver opening statements.
Hensarling said the panel should craft a “bipartisan” deficit
reduction plan that produces at least $1.5 trillion of savings.
Hensarling, in comments that were echoed by most Republican members
of the panel, said that the focus should be on controlling spending,
adding that reforms of “social safety net programs” such as Medicare and
Medicaid are essential.
Hensarling said controlling federal spending would serve as
pro-growth policy. He added that “pro-growth tax reform” should be part
of the panel’s discussions.
Murray said members from both parties must be “open to compromise”
to craft a major deficit reduction package.
Murray, like several other Democrats on the panel, said the
deliberations should include a focus on jobs creation.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Republican
member of the panel, agreed that tax reform “should be part of our
discussions,” but said the panel should focus tightly on controlling
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democratic member
of the panel, said the deficit committee should try secure more than
$1.5 trillion in savings.
“We should aim higher rather than lower,” he said.
Baucus also said that changes in tax policy are needed. “It’s not
just spending. It’s revenues,” he said.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said crafting a deficit reduction
package will require “tedious, time-consuming work.”
The deficit reduction panel will convene again Tuesday to receive
testimony from Doug Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget
Elmendorf will testify on the “drivers” of the nation’s soaring
deficits and rising debt.
The panel, officially called the Joint Select Committee on Deficit
Reduction, is charged with submitting a report to Congress by Nov. 23,
2011 that reduces the deficit by $1.5 trillion between 2012 and 2021.
The final package, if one is agreed to by the majority of the
panel’s 12 members, must be voted on without amendment by the House and
Senate by Dec. 23, 2011.
If the panel fails to agree on a spending cut package, a budget
enforcement trigger would secure $1.2 trillion in budget savings through
The cuts would be equally divided between defense and non-defense
programs but would exempt Social Security, Medicaid and low-income
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