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Turf Wars Brewing Over Deficit Panel

He envisioned a super committee scenario in which “those who don’t worry so much about defense” pitch a deal to “split the difference” — halving the defense cuts from the automatic sequestration to
$250 billion while conceding ground on entitlement programs. “That is catastrophic, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

In the Senate, Members have been trying to meet this Friday’s deadline for submissions. Sessions has been working extensively with his Democratic counterpart, Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.), to put together the Budget Committee’s proposals. The two men met last Wednesday, followed by a Democrats-only meeting with Conrad later that afternoon and a full committee meeting Thursday to discuss their letter to the super committee.

While Conrad has called his work with Sessions “productive” and hopes to produce a letter that has near-consensus from his full committee, the Budget chairman also met privately with members of the super committee Tuesday to discuss the work of other budget groups, including the president’s fiscal commission and the “gang of six.”

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is one of the many lawmakers who has already sent a formal letter to the super committee, posting the recommendations she made with ranking member James Inhofe (Okla.) to the panel’s website.

When asked whether she was also advocating for her committee’s idea privately, she indicated that she has regular access to lawmakers on the super committee. “Well, these are all my colleagues. I talk to them every day about it,” Boxer said.

But not every policymaker believes that the cacophony of ideas is productive for the already heavily burdened panel.

“Every committee is trying to get them to pay attention to them. I think they have too much information now,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who also has been speaking to members on the super committee. “You know, they’re going to have trouble focusing on doing what they have to do in the time they have.”

Other Members expressed frustration that there has been no clear outline of what kind of input super committee members are seeking. Many of the submissions that already have been made include broad ideas about deficit reduction and are not specific to that particular committee’s jurisdiction.

The lack of clarity in purpose has led some top committee lawmakers to take a pass on the recommendations process altogether. “The process is ... not that crisp,” Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller  (D-W. Va.) told Roll Call.

“We don’t have any huge compulsion, nor do we have any instructions at this point, nor do we have any time to go to them and say, ‘These are the things we think you should cut from our jurisdiction,’” Rockefeller added about the thought process he went through with his ranking member, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

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