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Deficit Panel Members Trade Plans

Party Leadership More Involved With Super Committee as Negotiations on Savings Heat Up

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

After a rare public hearing Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction met yet again behind closed doors — this time to hear the GOP proposal for how to achieve the panel’s goal of reducing the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

Democrats offered a proposal worth $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion in savings at a private session Tuesday, as Roll Call previously reported. 

The consecutive meetings Tuesday and Wednesday and the exchange of proposals played more like negotiating tactics and a battle for leverage — a necessary, though at times tense, step forward — than a presentation of proposals that are close to a final product.

“I think it is important that the committee do the most that it can do,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said, heading into the panel’s closed-door meeting Wednesday. “We are in the process of learning what that is, the boundaries of what the committee can do.”

Details of the GOP plan were not available at press time. However, there were clues about where Republicans might be headed.

Republican leaders have publicly bristled at including revenue raisers in the super committee’s final product, but outside sources suggested that the issue of business-tax reform has been raised recently among the GOP. Leadership aides and sources close to the committee would not confirm definitively whether business-tax reform was included in Wednesday’s Republican offering.

The inclusion of business-related tax provisions — potentially on a small scale — is in line with both on-the-record statements made by Republican committee members and the trajectory of previous deficit reduction negotiations.

Earlier this month, super committee Co-Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said he believed that tax reform could be taken up by the panel, especially if it did not include any changes to individuals’ taxes.

“There is seemingly some common purpose in doing business-entity tax reform,” Hensarling said in a story reported by CQ Today. “You understand it’s an area of potential commonality, particularly with what the president has said in the past, and certainly it’s something that a number of Members are interested in.”

Republicans were still making changes to their offering in the 24 to 48 hours leading up to the super committee’s Wednesday afternoon private session, sources said. The six GOP members of the panel met Tuesday in the office of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to discuss their progress, but aides to leaders and super committee members declined to say whether that meeting was before or after Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) presentation. Still, the flurry of conversations suggest that GOP members of the committee may be united in their approach. When the Democrats presented their plan Tuesday, some of the House Democrats on the panel had concerns about possible cuts to Medicare.

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