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Entries in Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (10)

Tuesday
Nov222011

GOP Negotiator ‘Deeply Disappointed’ in Super Failure

Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rob Portman, the only GOP member of the supercommittee to react on-camera Monday night, told reporters that he is “deeply disappointed by the result.”

Asked what could have been done to help the committee succeed, Portman, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the panel was unable “to bridge a gap in terms of our approach to spending and taxes.”

“Although we came close in this committee, there remained a gap. Republicans believe that the spending being much higher than it has historically been, that we need to restrain the spending, and do so in a way that’s pro-growth through tax reform in particular, and Democrats believe that we ought to pay for the increased spending by much higher taxes,” the Ohio senator said. “That’s a fundamental difference and until we resolve that difference it was tough to have this committee come together.”

Portman said that even though the supercommittee failed to strike an agreement, $1.2 trillion worth of reductions in spending will still occur through the sequester; the group, he said, generated a lot of “good ideas” to tackle the deficit.

“This committee through its work did produce a lot of good ideas, both on the mandatory side, the so-called healthcare entitlement programs, but also with regard to tax reform,” he said. “Hopefully Congress can now move forward on some of those specific initiatives from the committee to address the very real and bigger problems that we face.”

Asked whether there’s a possibility Congress change the sequestration through additional legislation, Portman said he is concerned that the defense cuts could weaken the military; last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the cuts would be "devastating" to the armed forces.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov212011

Supercommittee Fails to Reach Bipartisan Deal

Medioimages/Photodisc(WASHINGTON) -- The co-chairs of the supercommittee tasked with finding a bipartisan solution to deficit reduction said Monday afternoon that the group has failed to reach an agreement.

“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline,” co-chairs Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement.

“Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve,” the statement said. “We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.”

“We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable to come to a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement, but as we approach the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to express our appreciation to every member of this committee, each of whom came into the process committed to achieving a solution that has eluded many groups before us. Most importantly, we want to thank the American people for sharing thoughts and ideas and for providing support and good will as we worked to accomplish this difficult task.”

There were early signs that the Super Committee would not be able to reach an agreement, but there was a last-minute effort by a few members of the committee to salvage something.

A bipartisan group comprised of Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., John Kerry, R-Mass., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, met in the Capitol Monday afternoon. Senate aides said Kerry and Kyl also spoke earlier Monday morning.

But the two sides failed to come together despite a show of optimism.

Kyl, who had indicated that the talks were not fruitful, said Monday morning that the result of the Super Committee is one of the biggest disappointments of his career. Kyl is retiring at the end of his term.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov212011

Supercommittee Poised for 'Disappointing' End?

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Absent any last-minute deals, the supercommittee on Monday will issue a statement announcing its failure to reach a deal to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit.

“I wouldn’t be optimistic” Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Monday morning on Fox News. “I don’t want to create any false hope here...there will be an announcement by the two co-chairs towards the end of the day as to what the result was either way.”

Aides to the supercommittee members continue to half-heartedly insist that there are still conversations taking place between members of the 12-person committee, but the prospects are grim and the senators appear defeated.

A paper statement will be released late Monday, likely after the markets close, by co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-TX., announcing the committee is over.

“It’s disappointing,” Kyl said during an interview with CNN.  Earlier this year, Kyl announced his retirement; Monday morning he said the result of the supercommittee is one of the biggest disappointments of his career.

“This was Congress’ responsibility,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a member of the supercommittee said on CNN on Monday. “Frankly the only reason we don’t have an agreement is not because we weren’t willing to make reductions to Medicare, health care, do things we needed to do to make the system stronger, to protect it going forward. The reason is we are stuck on this insistence of making the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. I think the American people will judge that to be insane.”

“Our democratic friends had a different idea,” Kyl said on CNBC. “Their ideas was this the opportunity to raise taxes. And it didn’t matter what we proposed.”

Kyl said that Republicans believe there were “several incentives” for Democrats not to agree to a deal.

“They get to cut their favorite program, namely our national defense through the sequester program, namely our national defense though the sequester process,” Kyl said. “The president gets to keep his message that there is a dysfunctional congress and therefore he has somebody to blame for the bad economy.”

This criticism is also coming from outside of Capitol Hill. Some conservatives, like broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, called the entire supercommittee a farce, and claimed Democrats deliberately prevented the group from reaching an agreement so President Obama could blame the Republicans and a "do-nothing Congress" for the country's economic woes while stumping for reelection.

Talk of overturning the sequester -- the trigger of automatic across-the-board cuts – has already started.

“There will be opportunities to amend the effects of this across-the-board sequestration, on the defense side,” Kyl said on CNBC. “There will be efforts to find offsets or other ways to reduce spending so that those cuts in defense spending don’t occur.”

Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the proposed cuts would be "devastating" to the U.S. military.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov172011

Divine Intervention: Senate Chaplain Prays for Super Committee

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the so-called "super committee" in a deadlock just six days before their deadline, the Senate chaplain tried to summon the 12 members some extra help Thursday morning.

“In a special way, guide the super committee in its challenging work,” Senate Chaplain Barry Black prayed Thursday morning to open the day on the Senate floor. “Eternal God, let your peace that passes understanding be felt on Capitol Hill.”

The Senate chaplain alludes regularly to the heated politics of the moment in Congress in his daily prayer on the Senate floor, but rarely mentions specifics, nor by name as such when he named the super committee directly Thursday morning.

During the height of the debt ceiling debate this summer Chaplain Black intimated that he was calling on a higher power to help guide the debt debates toward conclusion, but was not as specific in mentioning the fierce talks out right.

“As we begin this week we are aware that Americans are watching on television the daily business of this chamber,” Black said on the Senate floor in July during the debt debate. “Grant our Senators wisdom to solve the complex issues of our time. Lord, inspire them to see the wisdom of cooperation. Strengthen their minds and bodies to endure long hours of labor and to build alliances across the aisle that will lead us and our nation to a better tomorrow.”

According to published reports, it could take a miracle: with the deadline looming, the reaction from Washington insiders regarding the panel's progress has been mixed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov162011

Boehner Calls GOP’s $300 Billion Tax Pitch a ‘Fair Offer’

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While Democrats rejected a recent bid from Republicans on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to create about $300 billion in new tax revenues as part of its deal to identify $1.5 trillion in savings, House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday called the proposal a “fair offer.”  But he cautioned reporters that a final deal has not yet been reached.

Last Tuesday, Republicans on the so-called "Super Committee" indicated that they would be open to some tax increases as part of a broader deficit deal that includes entitlement and tax reform.  The plan, offered by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., would raise federal tax revenue by about $300 billion over the next decade by limiting tax breaks such as mortgage interest deductions for Americans in return for lower income tax rates.

“The offer that Republicans put on the table is a fair offer.  Toomey, [or] something like Toomey -- it’s important for us to, in my opinion, reform the tax code.  We’ve got the highest business tax rate in the world,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said.  “Reforming the code is a step in the right direction.  The details of how we get there frankly are yet to be worked out.”

Boehner praised all 12 members of the bipartisan committee for their commitment to a successful outcome and he predicted that if members are able to reach a consensus, the full Congress would get behind their recommendations and pass them into law.

“All the members of the Joint Select Committee on deficit reduction, or so-called Super Committee, both Democrats and Republicans, have all done good work,” Boehner said.  “They have worked very hard, but there isn’t an agreement and I’m convinced that if in fact there is an agreement that it can in fact pass.”

While the Super Committee works to beat the Nov. 23 deadline, Boehner said that the House would continue working to address the stagnant economy this week by passing the Senate-passed repeal of the three percent withholding requirement -- which would have required governments to withhold three percent of their payments to contractors and was seen as a burden to small businesses. Another attempted jump start for the economy, Boehner said, will be moving another Senate-passed measure that encourages businesses to hire unemployed veterans.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov102011

Super Committee on the Edge of a Cliff? Talks Reach Tense Moment

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With just two weeks until its deadline to reach agreement on cutting $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 10 years, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction reached a tense and prickly moment on Wednesday.

The so-called Super Committee's 12 members last met for a full meeting more than a week ago.  There are currently no additional meetings scheduled, and one Republican aide described the situation as the critical moment right before negotiations could potentially fall apart.

Reports of a complete breakdown of the Super Committee swept through Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Democrats on the Super Committee have walked away from working on a deal.

Paul, who is not a member of the supercommittee, told ABC News that the six Democrats are "no longer negotiating."

When asked about the status of the negotiations, Sen. Patty Murray, the Democratic co-chairwoman of the committee, told ABC News while leaving the Senate floor on Wednesday that the reports of Democrats walking away from negotiations are not true.

"We haven't stepped away from anything," said Murray, D-Wash.  "There's a lot of conversation and a lot of work going on."

Aides said that although there were no full meetings with all 12 members of the Super Committee scheduled, smaller side meetings are taking place on a regular basis.

Capitol Hill sources quietly suggested this week that Democrats refused bipartisan meetings of the full committee for the last several days until Republicans come up with what the Democrats consider a "serious" counter-offer.

Murray would not specifically address that claim, but said both parties are working with an acute awareness of the Nov. 23 deadline.

A Senate aide with knowledge of the inner-workings of the Super Committee would not characterize the Democrats as walking away from the table, and stressed that smaller breakaway meetings continue.  The aide said that if there was a reason for the full committee to meet, they would.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct312011

Boehner Pushes for Common Ground in Louisville

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- With crunch time approaching for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to agree on a proposal to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit, House Speaker John Boehner on Monday called on members of the so-called super committee to work toward finding common ground and to resist allowing partisan differences to bring the committee to a stalemate.

“Nobody thought the committee’s job will be easy, and it hasn’t been,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “No one is surprised by that, but I have high hopes that in the weeks ahead, this panel will find common ground.”

Boehner said the two co-chairs of the committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., “couldn’t be more different ideologically,” and conceded that neither should compromise on his or her principles, but, he said, “they share a commitment to finding solutions, finding those ‘areas of overlap’ between the parties, and getting them done.

“The danger is that these areas of overlap on job creation will become pawns in a political game, held hostage to a broader debate while the two parties spar in the clash of philosophies,” Boehner warned. “There’s too much we agree on to allow that to happen. We owe it to you - the young Americans who’ll be entering the workforce at the end of this school year - to get this stuff done.”

Boehner encouraged the committee to hone in on working to reform entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to meet the committee’s mandate to drop $1.5 trillion from the deficit in the next decade.

Explaining that common ground is not analogous to compromise, the speaker called on Democrats and Republicans to come together on areas of agreement without violating the principles that brought them to elected office.

“Common ground doesn’t mean compromising on your principles. Common ground means finding the places where your agenda overlaps with that of the other party, locking arms, and getting it done, without violating your principles,” Boehner said. “The jobs crisis in America today demands that we seek common ground, and act on it where it’s found.”

With the House in a pro-forma session Monday, Boehner was in Louisville speaking as part of a fall lecture series at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center for political science students, at the invitation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Despite calling for actions to improve the economy now, Boehner predicted, it will probably take a change of power in the White House before changes are made to heal the economy.

“Until we get away from a government that is constantly meddling, manipulating and micromanaging our economy, we won’t see lasting job growth in our country,” Boehner said. “I realize Barack Obama and Joe Biden are probably never going to agree with that statement. It’s probably going to take a different administration to do the things I think are truly needed to turn our economy around.”

Still, Boehner said the prospect of a presidential election coming down the road should not prevent both political parties from working together now.

“While our differences are many, there are real areas of overlap between the two parties on solutions that can make a difference in the jobs crisis our country faces,” Boehner said, citing multiple bills that have passed the House of Representatives but have not been voted on in the Senate. “If there are differences, let’s work through them. There’s no reason we can’t get it done.

“I didn’t take this job to preside over a partisan screaming match. I took this job to be the speaker of the whole House, to listen to the people who truly hold the power in this country, listen to their priorities, and get stuff done,” Boehner continued. “My message to you today is simple: faith in government has never been high, but it doesn’t have to be this low. The American people need to see that despite our differences, we can get things done.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct262011

Deficit Super Committee Interrupted by Protests

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the Super Committee, held its first public meeting in more than a month and it didn’t take long to see why it may be more productive for the committee to deliberate privately rather than for it to hold open hearings.

As members of the committee took their seats around the dais and co-chair Sen. Patty Murray prepared to call the meeting to a start, a CodePink protester jumped out of his seat holding a sign.

“This committee is not democratic,” the demonstrator said. “I speak on behalf of the 99 percent who are occupied. We are the people who are not being heard by this committee.”

The man sat down and Murray called the committee to order, and reminded the audience not to demonstrate -- but she allowed him to stay.

About 90 minutes into the hearing, as CBO director Doug Elmendorf finished answering a question from Rep. Dave Camp, another demonstrator walked to the front of the room and stood next to the witness table as she called on the committee to “tax the rich and end the war.”

“That’s how we fix the deficit,” the woman said. “And all this obfuscation with percentages of GDP -- this is just trying to confuse the issue.”

The woman was arrested and pulled out of the room by U.S. Capitol Police officers. A spokeswoman for the department says the demonstrator was charged with unlawful conduct/disruption of Congress and is was processed at headquarters.

The rest of the hearing proceeded without a hitch as the committee discussed alternative methods to identify and count savings, analyzing discretionary outlays on security and non-security spending.

Elmendorf said that the economic impact of the country’s unsustainable fiscal path, “matters in short-run” in part due to borrowing the government has already committed, which he said could “crowd out private investment” and is compounded by uncertainty facing American families and small businesses.

Rep. Fred Upton, the chairman of the House committee on Energy and Commerce, asked Elmendorf for the latest date the Super Committee could provide a draft to the Congressional Budget Office in order to score the proposal and still leave enough time for the panel to vote prior to its Nov. 23 deadline.

Elmendorf warned the 12-member committee that time is running short.

“Our legion of skilled analysts are working very hard for this committee already,” Elmendorf said. “If you have a set of proposals that would make changes across a range of mandatory spending programs, then that would require us some weeks to work with legislative counsel and the staff of this committee in refining the legislative language to accomplish the objectives that your setting out to accomplish, and then for us to produce a cost estimate, and backing up from Thanksgiving, that left us looking at the beginning of November, which we are very aware, as you are Congressman, is not very far away.”

The committee will hold another open hearing Nov. 1, when the principal architects of two other deficit reduction proposals will testify. Alice Rivlin and former Sen. Pete Dominici will head the first panel while Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles will appear before the committee on a second panel to discuss their alternative packages for savings.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct262011

Deficit Super Committee Keeps Congress in the Dark as Deadline Nears

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With less than a month remaining until its deadline to engineer $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, the Deficit Super Committee has worked exclusively over the past months behind closed doors, out of the public’s view, to determine whether the panel is making substantial progress.

On Wednesday, the committee will hold its first open public hearing in more than a month, as the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Doug Elmendorf, testifies on “Discretionary Outlays: Security and Non-Security.”
 
The lack of transparency has left many on Capitol Hill scratching their heads and wondering just what progress the committee has made since it last met publicly on Sept. 22.  Without a steady flow of information coming from the private meetings, it’s also left some political observers skeptical that the 12-member panel will succeed in reaching its mandate.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, denied that the committee is struggling to make progress and reasserted his confidence that the exclusive, tight-lipped bipartisan group will succeed in identifying at least $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next decade by next month’s Nov. 23 deadline.

“I remain encouraged that the members of the Joint Select Committee know how serious the situation is,” Hensarling, R-Texas, said Tuesday.  “I believe they are all committed to achieving the goal, and until the stroke of midnight on November 22 we still have plenty of time to do the committee’s work.”

Late Tuesday evening, the committee announced another public hearing, scheduled for Nov. 1. That open meeting will feature testimony from the top architects of two other key deficit reduction plans, Simpson-Bowles and Domenici-Rivlin. The quartet have encouraged the committee to reach for the maximum savings and the committee is thought to be closely examining elements within the plans during private talks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct192011

Gang of Six Briefs Super Committee, Proceedings Remain Secret

Sen. Kent Conrad (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) -- The Gang of Six briefed members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction on Wednesday, but the content of the closed-door deliberations remain secret as the deadline to come up with a proposal for $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction approaches next month.

Members of the Gang of Six, including Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget committee, and Sens. Tom Coburn, Saxby Chambliss, Mike Crapo, Dick Durbin, and Mark Warner, were invited to brief the committee on their bipartisan proposal, which recommended $3.7 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. Their briefing lasted nearly two and a half hours.

“As a nation, we need a balanced, comprehensive plan to get this debt under control, and it’s absolutely essential we do,” Conrad, D-N.D., reported. “We very much appreciated the chance to go into significant detail the conclusions we came to.”

Once the briefing was over, the six Democrats and six Republicans on the JSC split up to meet separately for about an hour to discuss the Gang of Six’s recommendations.

Leaving the meeting, members of the Table of Twelve were tight-lipped on the detail of Wednesday’s private meeting, which lasted a total of about three and a half hours.

Reps. Fred Upton, the chairman of the House committee on Energy and Commerce, and Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, left without making substantive comments, as did Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Kyl described the briefing as a “good” meeting, but would not reveal its details to a strong contingency of the Capitol Hill press corps staking out members in the Capitol Visitors Center.

The committee has not met publicly since Sept. 22, nearly a month ago, and has no upcoming public hearings scheduled. One of the committee’s co-chairs, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, told reporters off-camera that he does expect to hold more public hearings in the future, although he declined to elaborate.

Last week chairmen and ranking members of many of the House and Senate committees along with various caucuses in Congress submitted letters to the so-called Super Committee with recommendations for savings.

The committee has until Nov. 23 to pass a proposal with at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction for the full Congress to consider. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to score the proposal prior to the committee vote, so the JSC plan is likely to be released a few days ahead of the deadline.

Congress has until Dec. 23 to enact $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. If they fail to meet the deadline, sequestration cuts totaling $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction would kick in, slashing defense spending and Medicare benefits.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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