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'Super committee' will launch website for public input

August 24, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro
(Carolyn Kaster, Elaine…)

The super-committee on deficit reduction has yet to hold its first meeting, but its co-chairs said Wednesday they are hard at work constructing the new panel that has less than three months to recommend sweeping budget reductions – a task that skeptics give little chance at success.

In their first joint statement since the panel was formed earlier this month, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said they have been engaged in “serious discussions” over the logistics of creating the panel that has far-reaching authority to set federal budgets for the next decade.

It is also building a website that could be launched in coming days to solicit public input.

“We have been working together to ensure that the committee we help build is given every opportunity to succeed,” Murray and Hensarling said in a joint statement. “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 committee has until Nov. 23 to recommend $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade through taxes, spending cuts or some combination. If a majority of the bipartisan 12-member panel agrees with the proposal, it would be presented to Congress for an up-or-down vote by Dec. 23.

Such tax and spending decisions have dogged Congress for years, but the committee faces increased pressure to shelve partisanship amid record deficits, jittery financial markets and a struggling economy.

But before the committee can tackle the tough issues, it needs to resolve the more mundane ones – assembling staff, setting meeting times and so on. In this era of partisan Washington, every decision is fraught with political traps.

“We encourage our colleagues to participate in active and useful dialogue across the aisle,” the co-chairs said.

By law, the committee must meet by Sept. 16.

lmascaro@tribune.com

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