* Panel meeting in public, unlike past budget talks
* First public hearing also scheduled, for mid-September
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, Sept 2 A newly-formed congressional
panel on deficit reduction next week will kick off months of
arduous negotiations that will be closely watched by financial
markets hoping for a deal that puts the United States on an
improved fiscal path.
The opening meeting of the bipartisan "super committee"
will be held on Sept. 8, the co-chairs announced on Friday. It
will convene just hours before President Barack Obama unveils
his latest jobs-creation initiative to a joint session of
That initiative and the super committee's work are both
aimed at healing a U.S. economy that has been struggling to
grow after a deep recession which began at the end of 2007.
The United States is still suffering the after-effects of
that recession with high unemployment -- 9.1 percent in the
latest government estimate.
Washington's ability to deal with joblessness and slow
economic growth will have an impact on the outcome of the
November 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
The deficit-reduction panel will also hold its initial
public hearing on Sept. 13, when it will review the history and
causes of the growing U.S. debt, said co-chairs Democratic
Senator Patty Murray and Republican Representative Jeb
Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf is
scheduled to testify.
The committee is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion
in new government savings over the next decade and has a Nov.
23 deadline for doing so.
At its meeting, which will be open to the public, the
committee will consider rules under which it will operate,
according to a press release.
But with Democrats and Republicans jockeying for best
position in the run-up to the 2012 elections and with the two
political parties holding vastly different views on how to fix
the economy, the panel's work will not be easy.
The special committee -- with six Republicans and six
Democrats from both houses of Congress -- was created by
legislation enacted in early August that cleared the way for
raising the U.S. debt limit and avoiding a likely default on
government loans. The debate on that legislation was bitter.
The measure included $917 billion in spending cuts over 10
years to help tame budget deficits that have been hovering well
above $1 trillion annually.
The super committee is expected to consider a mix of
spending cuts and possibly tax increases to reach additional
government savings of at least $1.2 trillion. U.S. credit
rating agencies are hoping for savings well beyond that
It is unclear whether cuts in benefits to Medicare,
Medicaid and Social Security recipients would be proposed.
If a majority of the new committee cannot agree on a
deficit-reduction package, automatic spending cuts of at least
$1.2 trillion would be triggered in 2013. They would be divided
equally between defense and domestic programs.
In announcing that its first two gatherings would be open
to the public, the special committee is responding to
criticisms that deficit-reduction negotiations earlier this
year were always behind closed doors.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)