The joint committee was part of a deal reached by House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House to raise the debt ceiling. The agreement included $917 billion in spending cuts over 10 years, and created the panel to find $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction by mid-November. Any bill that comes out of the committee would be voted on the House and Senate without amendment by about Christmas.
If they fail to reach agreement, a harsh $1.2 trillion automatic spending cut would be triggered. Van Hollen called it a “sword of Damocles hanging” over the committee and said that he believes it will motivate Members to reach a compromise. The panel can avoid the automatic cuts if it can agree on at least $1.2 trillion in savings.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.