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Deficit Panel Members Trade Plans

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

After the private GOP presentation, the second-floor Capitol office of super committee member and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) became a hub of activity. Around 5 p.m., the three Republican Senators on the super committee huddled in Kyl’s office suite for a conference call with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is out of town for recess, to update him on the panel’s progress.

Shortly before 6 p.m., super committee member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) entered Kyl’s office, with the Democrat and two Republican Senators exiting shortly after. Though Members have been meeting all the time, the uptick in activity — especially with the involvement of leaders — may suggest the talks have entered a more serious stage.

After details of the Democratic proposal leaked Tuesday, lawmakers and aides around the committee were especially tight-lipped. Inside accounts of discussions in the room, as well as meetings with leaders like the one in Boehner’s office,  have been few and far between since the panel began its work in August.

On Tuesday, Baucus, the Senate Finance chairman, presented a plan supported by most, though not all, of the super committee’s Democrats that would be composed of tax increases nearly equal to spending cuts to hit the target. His offering was met with harsh criticism by GOP members of the panel, according to sources familiar with the panel’s workings.

In previous bipartisan negotiations — particularly those between Boehner and President Barack Obama — tax reform was discussed. Ultimately, the GOP spurned the deals over fears they would raise taxes. Democratic sources insisted Tuesday night and Wednesday morning that their party’s plan, which includes billions of dollars in Medicare reform, resembles the “grand bargain” pursued twice last summer by Boehner and Obama.

That plan in one of its final iterations, however, included a ratio of about 3-to-1 in spending cuts to revenues and did not embrace serious tax code reform.

Sources on both sides of the aisle, close to the committee and to leadership, suggested that Democrats were using the term “grand bargain” to loosely describe a plan that included tax code reform in exchange for long-term structural entitlement reform.

In the super committee’s Wednesday public hearing, lawmakers appeared to agree that any plan that seriously reduces the deficit must go beyond cuts merely in discretionary spending.

Hensarling, in his statements at the public panel, revealed that he believed any significant proposal adopted by the committee would include entitlement reform, but how those levels compared to those in the plan presented by Democrats, estimated to be from $400 billion to $500 billion, was not immediately clear.

If the panel fails to reach agreement before its Nov. 23 deadline, a combined $1.2 trillion in across-the-board discretionary spending cuts, including more than $400 billion in defense spending, will be made.

The super committee did not have a meeting on its schedule for Thursday at press time, according to sources. However, the panel has been meeting frequently as time ticks toward its deadline, and the schedule has been subject to change.

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