Super committee to prep for first hearing

The six Democratic members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will confer by phone on Wednesday afternoon and are expected to discuss both strategy and administrative matters, aides said.

The conference call follows a meeting on Tuesday among the six committee Republicans. With Congress set to return next week from August recess, the panel members plan to hold their first public hearing late next week, likely on Thursday or Friday, aides said.

The 12-member super committee was created as part of a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling. The law requires the panel to meet by Sept. 16 and recommend by Thanksgiving cuts worth $1.5 trillion over 10 years. If its recommendations are not adopted, spending cuts worth $1.2 trillion over 10 years would be automatically imposed. Half of those would target defense spending, while entitlements would be mostly exempted.

On Tuesday, super-committee co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, announced the hiring of Mark Prater, the Senate Finance Committee's deputy staff director and minority chief tax counsel, as staff director for the new panel.

Aides to committee Democrats said members hope in coming days to announce one or more additional hires, a hearing schedule, the location of a committee office space, and transparency rules for the committee. Lawmakers in both parties have urged the committee to deliberate as openly as possible.

In addition to Murray, committee Democrats include Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Assistant House Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, and Rep. Xavier Becerra of California.

Committee Republicans on Tuesday discussed past deficit-reduction proposals, Hensarling said in a statement. The Republicans also discussed administrative matters during the nearly 7-hour session, GOP aides said. Republican members include Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan.

Members in both parties are aware they have just 11 weeks to act once Congress returns. Divergent House and Senate schedules leave relatively few weeks before Thanksgiving when both chambers are in session.

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