The co-chairs of the bipartisan “supercommittee” charged with working out a plan to reduce the federal debt said Wednesday that members are engaged in “serious discussions” on devising a meeting schedule and are reviewing the work of previous debt-reduction commissions.
“We have been working together to ensure that the committee we help build is given every opportunity to succeed,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said in a joint statement.
“In our capacity as co-chairmen, we are engaging in serious discussions to determine what set of rules will govern the committee’s operation, examining a schedule of potential meetings and exploring how to build a committee staff that will help us achieve success,” the co-chairs added.
“Additionally, most of the committee members are reviewing the deficit reduction work that many others have engaged in over the past several years. We are confident that most Americans will agree that when building an organization from the ground-up with a short time-table for success, it’s important to get it right the first time.”
The 12 members of the bipartisan panel have until Thanksgiving to work out a plan to achieve $1.5 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade. If they don’t, Congress will be forced to pull the “trigger” on a $1.2 trillion across-the-board cut, split evenly between defense and domestic discretionary spending.
Vice President Biden told reporters aboard Air Force Two this week that the debt panel faces “very, very difficult” odds.
Among the hurdles is a wide ideological gap between the parties on tax increases and entitlement reform. Another obstacle is the committee’s timeline: during the four-week period from Oct. 17 to Nov. 14, for instance, the House and Senate are in session at the same time for only four days.
That means members of the bipartisan panel may be forced to stay in Washington even as their House or Senate colleagues return to their home states and districts for recess.
Despite the difficulties, Murray and Hensarling struck an optimistic, bipartisan note in their statement Wednesday.
“We are excited that committee members and staff from both sides of the aisle are eager to engage one another as we begin our work,” they said. “We encourage our colleagues to participate in active and useful dialogue across the aisle and among our respective caucuses as we continue to work through this process.”