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President Barack Obama urged Congress last week to take his jobs plan and "pass it now" — but that call rang loudest for the 12 lawmakers on the newly created Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, which the president has now tasked with finding an additional $447 billion to pay for his proposal.
The bipartisan, bicameral super committee's job of finding $1.2 trillion to
$1.5 trillion in savings — a challenge issued by Obama in August to secure an agreement to raise the debt ceiling — has just gotten nearly a half-trillion dollars more difficult.
The panel's first meeting Thursday morning was marked by optimism from both parties, but Tuesday's second public meeting is sure to look different. The tone shifted almost immediately following the committee meeting as Republican lawmakers in particular voiced concerns that the president's proposal would increase spending levels.
In their public session Thursday, Members from both sides of the aisle said the committee should "aim higher" and hit targets exceeding the ones set by the debt limit deal last month. But by the end of the night Thursday, it seemed that lawmakers should have been more careful about what they said.
"It appears President Obama is once again abdicating responsibility in paying for his plans, pushing it off on the deficit reduction committee," Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the super committee, said Thursday night.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, who is also on the panel, suggested that perhaps the super committee was going to need to find superpowers to fulfill the taller order from the White House. In a statement that seemed to mark the shift from unbridled optimism to realism, the Arizona Republican said lawmakers should consider the calendar and acknowledge that finding $2 trillion in savings in two months is a herculean task.
"After we hit $1.5 trillion I'd be happy to think about it, but it's going to be hard enough to get $1.5 trillion in cuts," Kyl said in a Capitol hallway. "I was just trying to say, 'Guys, it's all fun and dandy to try to talk in all these grandiose terms, but we have got a lot of work to do in a very short period of time.'"
In a brief interview, Portman said Obama instead should focus on cost-neutral jobs-boosting measures such as sending Congress pending trade agreements, a point that the Senate Republican Conference has driven home in recent weeks.