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Tensions Flare on Deficit Panel

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer insisted Tuesday that any deal on reducing the deficit would have to include agreement on revenues.

Meanwhile, Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf is slated Wednesday to make his second appearance at a super committee hearing. He will be discussing discretionary spending.

Last time he came to the Hill to talk to the powerful panel, the CBO director indicated it would take the nonpartisan budget office "at least a few weeks" to issue cost estimates for any proposal that would significantly affect entitlements such as Medicare — another one of the major sticking points facing the negotiating group.

Given that the super committee faces a Nov. 23 deadline and that it must have some sort of CBO estimate 48 hours before a final vote, some have suggested that the panel would have to start submitting proposals beginning next week.

"With all respect, your decisions really need to be mostly made by the beginning of November if you want to have real legislation and a cost estimate from CBO to go with that before you get to Thanksgiving," Elmendorf told super committee members at a September hearing.

When aides not affiliated with the super committee were pressed on whether CBO scores significantly affect the panel's time frame, many suggested that because so many other plans have been drafted and floated by the budget office, it's entirely possible that the super committee could base the scoring of its agreement on existing estimates, a scenario that could buy it some time.

Despite Members repeating to the media that the group is "making progress," it's unclear just how much has been made. Members already have decided to forego their chamber recesses in an attempt to wade through policy options. And leadership sources insist their bosses aren't yet trying to force the panel's hand toward any specific deal.

At a pen-and-pad with reporters Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) continued to emphasize that House Democrats would like to see the super committee "go big" and insisted that no deal would be possible without embracing some sort of agreement on taxes.

"You can't get there from here without revenues," Hoyer said. "I think there's more significant agreement on that proposition than you might think."

He also floated an idea that the panel could lay out a two-pronged approach to tax code reform, instructing the germane committees to tackle the serious and time-consuming issue within their own jurisdictions. That approach has not been dismissed by sources close to the deficit panel.

One of the realities that makes it a viable option logistically and politically is that the two chief tax-writing chairmen in each chamber, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), sit on the super committee and have worked together on tax issues in the past.

Late Tuesday evening, Hensarling and Co-Chairman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) also announced that the panel’s next public hearing will occur Nov. 1. It will include a review of previous deficit reduction proposals and feature a slate of witnesses who have produced plans, from former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) to former Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Alice Rivlin and former Senate Budget Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.).

Jonathan Strong contributed to this report.

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