The Washington Post

‘Supercommittee’ chair defends closed-door meetings

The co-chairman of a special congressional committee charged with cutting the nation’s deficit defended the panel Wednesday for holding closed-door meetings and promised the group would lay out its ideas publicly before they are settled.

Speaking briefly to reporters as she headed into a private meeting of the bipartisan panel dubbed the “supercommittee” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) insisted that all options remain on the table as the group seeks to fulfill its mandate of cutting the deficit by $1.2 to $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

Democrats on the 12-member panel have insisted it must include new revenues even as it also looks to reduce the deficit through spending cuts.

“We’ve said clearly from the start that everything’s on the table,” Murray said. “And we are bringing everything to the table.”

Her comments were largely notable only because public statements of any kind from members of the powerful group about its work have become increasingly rare.

The panel has been holding a series of lengthy meetings behind closed doors in a meeting room in the Capitol’s Visitor Center, but members have brushed past TV cameras and ignored questions from reporters before and after the sessions.

Though leading members of both parties had called on the bipartisan group to conduct a transparent process, the supercommittee last held a public hearing — on tax reform — on Sept. 22.

Murray noted Wednesday that rules adopted by the group require that it must hold votes in public.

“We’ve been very clear that however we get to this, it will be a very public process. It has to be.. . . We have to make our decisions, our final decisions, in front the public, and we’ll do that,” she said. She added, “But I think it is important for us to be open and honest with each other.”

“It’s interesting,” she said of the criticism. “Everyone said, if they just got in a room by themselves, they could figure this out.”

She said the dilemma reminded her of being told by her mother when she was young, and fighting with her brother, to go into a back room with him and work with him to settle their differences.

“We stared at each other for a while,” she said. “But we came out friends.”

She said the group has had “good discussions” but provided no details.

“We are trying to figure out a best way forward,” she said. “And when we’ve got some ideas, we’ll have a public process to lay them out.”

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.


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