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House Leaders Weigh In on Deficit Panel

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

House leaders stepped up their comments today regarding the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, signaling that leadership is closely following the panel’s deliberations with less than a month to go before it must deliver a proposal.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on the group to come to a deal soon and sought to cast aside claims she has been shut out of the high-level deliberations.

Her comments come one day after super committee members swapped proposals to reach the panel’s stated goal of reducing the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

“It’s about time for us to see the super committee narrow its possibilities and reach an agreement,” Pelosi said at the opening of her weekly press conference.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to discuss whether he would agree to a deal that includes tax increases, despite growing calls from Republicans and Democrats to keep revenue raisers on the table.

“I expect it’s going to be difficult to get to an outcome,” Boehner said, adding that his discussions with President Barack Obama earlier this year for a grand bargain “revolved around the same type of structure. So I’m not surprised” the committee is also talking about trading tax increases for deep cuts to entitlements, he said.

Boehner acknowledged the difficulties the committee is facing. “We’ve asked the super committee to do a big job. ... I’m not surprised we’re having some difficulty, because this isn’t easy. But it’s time to get serious,” he said.

House Democrats have largely been shut out of deals this year and are increasingly concerned they will again be forced to vote on a proposal they don’t like. Pelosi promised at her press conference, “We are not sitting around waiting while this is going on.” She hinted that House Democrats would unveil a small-business jobs plan next week, although she did not offer details.

The super committee must reach consensus on a deficit deal by Nov. 23. If it fails to hit the deadline, $1.2 trillion in across-the-board discretionary spending cuts will be triggered starting in 2013.

The Minority Leader also maintained that she has not been shunned from leadership-level discussions about the panel. Roll Call reported earlier this month that super committee Co-Chairmen Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who is also on the deficit panel, presumably to discuss details of the group.

“I don’t believe that I have been cut out of the super committee discussions,” Pelosi said. “Again, the three people that we sent to the table have my trust and confidence and that of our Caucus. If there are any other meetings going on, I would hope that they would be in furtherance of people reaching agreement on where they may have some differences.”

Pelosi also warned that the group of lawmakers on the deficit panel should be more public in their deliberations, charging that it will be hard to corral Members to vote for a proposal unless they have time to review it.

“In order for our Members to embrace this, they have to know more about it and why it has come to a place that it has,” she said.

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