Sen. Rob Portman (second from left), a member of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, shakes hands with Sen. Mark Warner after the panel met behind closed doors Wednesday with members of the Senates bipartisan gang of six. Warner and his five colleagues, including Sens. Saxby Chambliss (left) and Mike Crapo (right), discussed the groups plan for cutting the deficit.
The Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction met yet again Wednesday — this time with members of the Senate’s “gang of six” — as it continues to forge its way through the valley of policy options to find $1.2 trillion of savings over the next 10 years.
After the early-morning full meeting with the bipartisan group of Senators, both Democrats and Republicans on the super committee met separately along party lines to continue to shore up their positions as a Thanksgiving deadline to vote on a final product creeps closer.
As has become routine after all conversations inside the super committee room, lawmakers emerged from the two-hour meeting tight-lipped on details but optimistic about reaching a final agreement.
But time is running short, as pieces of any deal need to be sent to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for scoring by early next month. The upbeat tone from lawmakers in front of the microphones belies a growing concern that the same disagreements that sunk previous budget groups, including the gang of six, will doom the super committee as well.
“This group is operating in a very serious way, and we had a very serious meeting,” Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a member of the gang of six, said Wednesday. “We very much appreciated the chance to go into significant detail of the conclusions we came to, and I’m optimistic that they’ll do what is really necessary for the country.”
Added Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), another member of the gang of six: “We had a very frank and open discussion with the super committee. We empathize and sympathize with the overwhelming job that these folks have.”
Given that the gang of six has presented its findings multiple times to lawmakers across the Capitol, it’s unlikely their presentations to the committee were mere broad overviews of their months-long negotiations.
It’s possible that the group’s bipartisan Senators, spanning the ideological spectrum from Republican Tom Coburn (Okla.) to Democrat Dick Durbin (Ill.), came before the committee to serve as a reminder that Members from both sides have expressed willingness to deal with both taxes and entitlement reform.
With most accounts from inside the super committee, although vague, indicating that the panel has yet to resolve the major, and basic, issues of whether it can address revenues or costly social safety net programs, perhaps the meeting provided a bit of an energy boost for the panel. At a minimum, it allowed the super committee to check off another box as it works toward creating something that might be palatable for either party to vote on.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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