News of the newly scheduled breakfast comes after one committee member -- Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. - complained earlier this week he was growing concerned by the lack of real policy work sessions scheduled as much of the tough give-and-take usually occurs then, probably behind closed doors.
The group held its first policy hearing on Tuesday, with testimony from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf on the drivers of the debt. But members spent much of the meeting subtly posturing and pushing for Elmendorf to agree with them, even though he repeatedly refused to give advice on the best deficit-reduction path forward. The private meeting raises hopes that, away from the glare of the camera, members can actually discuss substantive policy and leave talking points behind.
Elmendorf also cautioned members that if the committee ultimately recommends specific changes to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, his CBO analysts would need several weeks to calculate their budgetary impact.
Meaning, he said, that the committee likely needs to get a draft of its recommendations ready by early November-even though its official deadline is later.
"We need to do our jobs right and not pull numbers out of the air," Elemendorf said.
The final package of recommendations is officially due Nov. 23. It will be given expedited consideration in both chambers and go for a vote by Dec. 23; if Congress fails to adopt the package, automatic cuts worth $1.2 trillion would be triggered starting in January 2013.