July 28, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Deficit Panel Faces Critical Week

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Sen. Patty Murray, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, has continued to participate in talks among panel members to come closer to a deficit reduction plan.

“That’s one way of raising revenues ... without increasing taxes,” Senate Finance ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Thursday, before conceding that “some people would say that’s raising taxes by cutting out what they consider to be loopholes.”

Hatch added, however, that he is still looking over the Toomey offer, and he expressed reservations about tinkering too much with the tax expenditure system.

The full super committee has not met to negotiate since Oct. 31, though small groups have continued to meet throughout the tumultuous two-week stretch.

On CNN on Sunday, Co-Chairman Jeb Hensarling said Republicans have challenged Democrats to produce a counteroffer on entitlements and believe their own tax plan will both broaden the tax base and help increase economic growth without raising taxes. The Texas Republican said he is open to a two-step process of instructing committees to come up with the entitlement and tax fixes.

“There could be a two-step process that would hopefully give us pro-growth tax reform. ... So we Republicans, we want more revenues, we just want to raise it by growing the economy,” Hensarling said.

Super committee member Rep. James Clyburn on “Fox News Sunday,” however, questioned whether that economic growth would come from what Republicans put on the table, saying it can’t be verified through cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

“About two-thirds of what Pat Toomey has put on the table I am for, I’ll tell you,” the South Carolina Democrat said. “And that may shock you. What I’m not for is trying to count something that CBO will not score.”

Eventually, all the panel members will have to get back in the same room if they are to come up with a plan to dispatch to the full Congress by Nov. 23.

At this point, aides to Members inside and outside the room suggest two courses of action: a larger plan that addresses entitlements and revenues significantly, or a modest plan that barely touches either.

The panel, by law, can produce a plan of any amount, but it has to generate a framework worth at least $1.2 trillion to avoid a politically poisonous sequester that includes about $500 billion in defense cuts, as well as deep cuts to domestic programs.

A smaller package could contain about $350 billion in non-tax revenues, like those included in a “down payment” toward the Democrats’ desired $1.3 trillion revenue plan. A larger plan likely would have some of the Toomey structure for tax code reform, but Democrats would likely fight over the Bush-era tax cut provisions.

Lawmakers will have to choose a road soon, though.

“I’m not giving up hope, and I hope my Democratic colleagues aren’t giving up hope until midnight on [Nov. 23],” Hensarling said Thursday.

President Barack Obama called the co-chairmen of the super committee Friday and warned them he would block efforts to partially defuse automatic spending cuts if they fail to cut a deal on deficit reduction, according to a White House statement.

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