A congressional "super committee" is pushing to meet a tight deadline to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts over the next decade.
The panel of six Democrats and six Republicans has until November 23 to achieve their goal -- or something close to it. Congress then has until December 23 to vote on the panel's recommendations. If either deadline goes unmet, automatic budget cuts would be triggered, beginning in 2013.
Here is a rundown on the panel members
PATTY MURRAY: Named by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to be co-chair of the super committee, Murray, of Washington state, is a member of the Senate's Democratic leadership and chairs a political committee that works to elect more Democrats to the Senate. She is the lone woman on the 12-member panel and is a strong advocate for the Social Security retirement program as well as the Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor. In 2013, she is in line to be the senior Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.
MAX BAUCUS: A centrist leader known for working across party lines, he is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. He has been a proponent of tax reform and played a major role in writing President Barack Obama's healthcare law.
He was a member of Obama's 2010 Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, which offered up $4 trillion in savings through spending cuts and revenue increases. He opposed the final Bowles-Simpson plan because it called for benefit cuts for veterans and the elderly. He is a staunch critic of Republican proposals to privatize the Social Security retirement program and the Medicare health program for the elderly.
JOHN KERRY: The failed 2004 Democratic presidential candidate is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Finance Committee member.
Kerry, who is from Massachusetts, has been outspoken in calling for long-term remedies for annual budget deficits and the growing national debt. But he also wants large U.S. investments in infrastructure -- to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges and to create jobs. He wants to do so with minimal government spending by creating a bank to help finance the projects with a revolving fund.
ROB PORTMAN: The first-term senator from Ohio knows budget and tax issues after working in the Bush administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget. When he was in the House, Portman served on both the Budget and the tax-writing Ways and Means Committees.
He is respected by members of both parties and his negotiating skills as a former U.S. trade representative could make him pivotal in helping forge consensus on the panel.
JON KYL: The No. 2 Senate Republican, Kyl, of Arizona, does not plan to run for re-election next year. As the super committee prepared to begin its work in early September, Kyl threatened to leave the panel if it sought additional defense cuts to meet its deficit reduction goal.
Kyl has stuck around. He is a tough negotiator and a forceful voice against raising taxes to reduce deficits. He wants to streamline the tax code to broaden the tax base and to lower top income tax rates.
PATRICK TOOMEY: He is a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement that wants to shrink the federal government. Toomey accused the Obama administration of exaggerating the risk of default if Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling.
The first-term senator from Pennsylvania rejects administration calls for tax hikes and likely will take a hard line on the need for further government spending cuts.
JEB HENSARLING: The panel's conservative co-chairman has pushed for a moratorium on funding designations by lawmakers, known as earmarks, and proposed capping federal spending at 20 percent of the size of the U.S. economy every year.
He also served on the Bowles-Simpson commission and opposed its recommendations because it called for a "massive tax increase" without tackling Medicare reforms.
DAVE CAMP: The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee wants to balance the budget without raising taxes. This is a key Republican goal and one that most fiscal policy experts say cannot be met without devastating budget cuts.
The Michigan congressman was on the Bowles-Simpson panel and opposed its recommendations, which he said failed to address rising healthcare costs and included tax hikes that would impede economic growth. He told Reuters in August that he would not rule out tax increases that enabled economic growth.
FRED UPTON: In his 13th term representing a southwest Michigan district, Upton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. For most of his career in the House he compiled a moderate voting record. But he is now leading the Republican charge against Obama administration efforts to rein in greenhouse gas pollution blamed for global warming.
Upton has said he would oppose any Social Security benefit cuts for current retirees.
XAVIER BECERRA: The vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus sits on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He is close to fellow Californian and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. He was on the Bowles-Simpson panel and opposed its final report. A solid liberal, Becerra has ties to the White House. At the start of Obama's presidency, he was offered the job of U.S. trade representative but turned it down.
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Another party stalwart, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee was part of a bipartisan group led by Vice President Joe Biden that tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to forge a deficit deal. From Maryland, Van Hollen is former chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee and is a Pelosi confidant.
At recent super committee hearing, he expressed interest in phasing out tax deductions for high-income earners.
JAMES CLYBURN: The senior member of the South Carolina delegation to Congress is the No. 3 House Democrat and a Pelosi ally. Clyburn also is an influential member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Clyburn has said he believes the tax code unfairly values wealth more than it values work.
(Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh, Richard Cowan, Donna Smith and Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Ross Colvin and Todd Eastham)