Super committee meets Gang of Six

Members of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" met behind closed doors on Wednesday with the super committee to explain their plan from earlier this year to cut about $3.7 trillion from the nation's deficit over 10 years.

Afterward, it remained unclear exactly how interested the 12 Republicans and Democrats on the new panel were in that earlier plan -- or specific elements of it -- as they continue to race against a Nov. 23 deadline to come up with their own strategy for at least $1.2 trillion in savings.

Asked about the Gang of Six's tax recommendations, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, a member of the new panel, said, "I think it's a group of very serious members who understand the gravity of the situation. They will admit that there were a number of specifics that were left out of their plan."

The meeting at the Capitol was kept private, although as recently as last week others in Congress -- including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. -- have been calling for any such discussion between the new and old deficit-reduction panels to be conducted in public.

Instead, members of both panels emerged from their private session, offering little insight and no specifics.

"We very much appreciated the chance to go into significant detail the conclusions we came to," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

But aside from explaining that he and others on the Gang of Six spent time discussing their earlier plan, Conrad and the others declined to answer questions about what else, if anything, occurred. "I think it would be inappropriate for me to say any more," Conrad said. "We've been asked to respect the deliberations of the committee. And I certainly do respect them."

"As a nation, we need a balanced, comprehensive plan to get this debt under control, and it's absolutely essential we do," he added.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., another Gang of Six member, said the super committee faces a big challenge, but that, "we're very confident at the end of the day they're going to produce something positive." Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., added, "We want them to do their job...and make some bold choices."

Two members of the super committee, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said only that it was a good meeting.

In saying "balanced, comprehensive plan," Conrad used a term often coined for the outline of a deficit-reduction plan that the Gang of Six recommended. It would have relied on several approaches -- reducing both security and non-security discretionary spending, enacting some Medicare reforms, and reforming the U.S. tax code to gain about $1 trillion in added revenues. Some of its elements were itself based on an earlier presidential deficit-reduction commission.

But the Gang of Six plan got set aside during this summer's battle between President Obama and congressional Republicans over increasing the nation's debt limit. Since then, however, more than 40 senators from both parties have endorsed all or part of it.

Katy O'Donnell contributed to this story.

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