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Bipartisan group says deficit panel should consider 'all options'

November 02, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau
(Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )

They're not explicitly agreeing to raise taxes to reduce deficits, but a bipartisan group of 100 House lawmakers -- including 40 Republicans -- urged the congressional "super committee" to put everything in the mix and strive for a larger, $4-trillion deficit reduction deal.

A letter released Wednesday by the group was seen as a possible opening in the partisan stalemate as the committee on deficit reduction appears to be deadlocked. So far, Republicans have refused to raise taxes to bring down deficits and Democrats are willing to put Medicare and other entitlement cuts on the table, but only if the GOP agrees to new revenue.

"All options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table," said the letter organized by Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs coalition of Democrats.

"We are prepared to support you in this effort," the lawmakers wrote. "The success of your committee is vital to our country's future. We know that many in Washington and around the country do not believe that we in the Congress and those within your committee can successfully meet this challenge. We believe that we can and we must."

The letter has been circulating for more than a week and it has been viewed by some as a possible sign of movement across partisan lines. The committee is struggling to reach its goal of cutting $1.5 trillion from deficits over the next decade by its Thanksgiving deadline.

Failure from the committee would trigger automatic spending cuts to defense and discretionary accounts that both Democrats and Republicans hope to avoid. But because those cuts are postponed until 2013, some in Congress believe they can be avoided.

The 40 Republicans who signed on to the letter are a mix of freshmen and others in moderate districts who may face tough reelection battles as well as veteran lieutenants to GOP leaders who have expressed distance from the tea party conservatives within their party.

Democrats and Republicans on the 12-member panel exchanged proposals last week that were roundly dismissed by each side. Committee members continue talking and meeting privately in small groups, exchanging ideas. Democrats indicated they were waiting on Republicans to present a new proposal, but Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a super committee member, said Wednesday it was up to Democrats to put their next offer on the table.  

lmascaro@tribune.com

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