Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Deficit Panel Pressure Increases as Time Fades

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (left) and Sen. Patty Murray, who co-chair the super committee, have been inundated with budget suggestions from outside groups and Capitol Hill lawmakers.

With a Friday cutoff for formal recommendations to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction and with time ticking away at the panel’s November final product deadline, outside groups are submitting letters and outlines by the dozen to try to affect what could be a $1.2 trillion deficit deal.

Beltway think tanks spanning the ideological spectrum have been weighing in on how the 12-member bipartisan, bicameral panel might find trillions of dollars of savings, with some frameworks addressing the broad task of deficit reduction and other letters urging the group to protect special interests championed by different shops. And while some memos have been widely distributed and posted online, others are quietly streaming into the inboxes of Members and staffers across the Capitol.

Just as the super committee itself is reviewing existing ideas that came from previous deficit reduction efforts — from the Bowles-Simpson debt panel recommendations to Rivlin-Domenici to the Senate’s “gang of six” — outside groups have the luxury of recycling prior submissions in the hope that they will stick this time around.

Given the pressure on the super committee — Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a forum last week that he told the panel’s Republican members he “[expects] there will be an outcome” and they have to reach agreement — perhaps these groups have found their vehicle.

As with any issue in Washington, groups are reaching out to lawmakers of their own party to shore up their cases and present frames through which to advocate for deficit reduction.

“Can a balanced package be achieved? Not likely, given the insistence of the Republican Members that all deficit reduction come from program cuts, and their votes for the Ryan budget plan, which called for even further tax cuts,” reads one memo obtained by Roll Call from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an organization Democratic leadership aides say is trusted and well-respected among their bosses.

The same memo, however, states that the panel could find more savings over the 10-year window than is required by the Budget Control Act, agreed to between the president and Congressional leaders in August, and that “deadlock” would not necessarily be the same as “failure.” Many Democrats have outwardly suggested that though sequestration — the automatic spending cuts triggered if there is no deal — is not optimal, it was designed in the act to leave Social Security and Medicare untouched.

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