By Dan Friedman and Billy House
September 2, 2011The heads of the joint select committee charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years announced Friday that they will hold a public organizational hearing on Thursday, followed by their first public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
The co-chairs of the panel, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in an annoucement that the Thursday hearing, at 10:30 a.m., will include opening statements by panel members and will focus on consideration of proposed committee rules. The hearing will occur in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The second hearing, also at 10:30 a.m. will include testimony on "The History and Drivers of Our Nation's Debt and Its Threats" from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf. That hearing will be in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.
Widely dubbed the super committee, the panel was created by legislation last month that allows raising the federal debt ceiling and requires deficit cuts. The bill requires the committee to meet by Sept. 16 and to issue recommendations by Thanksgiving for cutting $1.5 trillion. Seven of the 12 panel members must agree for recommendations to be offered. The panel is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans and House and Senate members.
Committee recommendations will automatically receive expedited consideration with amendments barred and no Senate filibusters allowed. If the panel's recommendations are not adopted, $1.2 trillion in cuts, with half targeting defense spending and entitlements largely exempted, will be imposed. If cuts of less than $1.2 trillion are agreed on, the mandatory cuts making up the difference will be imposed.
With Congress set to return next week from recess, the panel has been gearing up for action. Murray and Hensarling announced the hiring of a staff director this week and committee Democrats and Republicans held separate discussions to plan strategy. Additional staff announcements are likely next week, aides said.
Meanwhile, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, D-Conn., on Friday introduced three bills that he hopes will amend the mission of the so-called super committee-or create a separate parallel committee-to give job creation the same top priority as deficit reform.
"Amending the existing law to incorporate economic growth and job creation and subjecting them to the same deadlines and a trigger, would restore confidence to the American public and global markets …," said Larson, in a statement released by his office.
Although it is unlikely that Larson's legislation will be taken up by the Republican-led majority, he suggests the American public is increasingly frustrated with the partisanship in Washington and want some solutions to address high unemployment.
One of Larson's bills would add four more members to the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reform, one from each party, which Larson says would allow for the extra work involved with the added focus.
A second bill would formally amend the mission of the committee to require its members to develop both a deficit reduction plan and a job creation plan, and to report its proposed legislation to restore the nation's workforce to "full employment."
Larson's third bill is a proposal for another option-to create a separate, parallel super committee altogether to focus solely on jobs and the economy, under the same terms as the deficit panel.
"As many economists have pointed out, reducing the unemployment directly reduces our deficit," said Larson.
"The Super Committee, with its deadlines and triggers, has a unique opportunity to overcome the recent gridlock in Congress to make that happen," said Larson.
By Dan Friedman and Billy House
September 2, 2011