* Co-chair says members sketch out individual goals
* Committee holds first substantive meeting
* Members seek refuge in Library of Congress
(Recasts, adds details)
By Richard Cowan and Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Sept 20 The 12 members of a
congressional "super committee" laid out competing visions on
Tuesday for how to solve the country's budget ills during the
panel's first negotiating session.
"Different members have their ideas of what success looks
like. Part of the exchange today was fleshing out some of those
opinions," Republican co-chairman Jeb Hensarling told Reuters
in an interview following the three-hour meeting.
The six Republicans and six Democrats sequestered
themselves in the ornate Library of Congress, across the street
from the U.S. Capitol, where they were less likely to be snared
into detailed conversations with journalists.
Most of the members refused to talk in detail publicly
following Tuesday's meeting. "We're making progress," quipped
Democratic Senator Max Baucus.
But progress seemed more difficult with each day amid new
warnings that the U.S. economic recovery could be stalling,
which could result in a worsening budget deficit picture.
As the talks intensified, the super committee reached out
to heads of the regular congressional panels that oversee
everything from farm programs to transportation.
"I think that both the Democrats and Republicans are
hearing from their committee chairmen and will most likely
continue to do so," Hensarling said.
Those panels have until mid-October to present firm ideas
to the super committee for spending cuts. The super committee
members then will have a couple weeks to put ideas into
specific enough form for the Congressional Budget Office to
analyze some time in early November.
The bipartisan super committee has a final deadline of Nov.
23 to try for a majority vote in favor of a plan saving at
least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
The bipartisan special committee was born out of an August
deal to raise the U.S. borrowing authority. If it fails to
agree on a minimum of $1.2 trillion in savings, a similar
amount of automatic spending cuts would be triggered beginning
in 2013. Those savings would be divided evenly between domestic
and military programs.
The panel is walking a tightrope as it deliberates.
There are deep party divisions over the best way to reduce
budget deficits, raising questions over whether it will be able
to cut a deal by its Thanksgiving deadline.
Hensarling said the super committee members could find the
$1.2 trillion in savings "in our sleep individually, but (it)
is quite a challenge to do in a collective bipartisan basis."
There is plenty of pressure to produce, however.
The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday revised downward
its forecast for U.S. economic growth to 1.5 percent this year
and 1.8 percent next year, down from June forecasts of 2.5
percent and 2.7 percent respectively.
The IMF warned that a painfully slow U.S. economic recovery
could be threatened if Washington failed to produce a credible
plan to cut government borrowing in the medium term.
If it was not enough to have hordes of journalists dogging
their every move, lobbyists calling them and the IMF piling on
pressure, politicians no less prominent than President Barack
Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner are
trying to influence them.
On Monday, Obama delivered to the super committee his own,
ideas for cutting deficits -- about $3 trillion in savings
through a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts. The plan
was accompanied by a warning: Obama said he would veto any
deficit reduction bill that cuts the Medicare healthcare
program for the elderly without increasing taxes on wealthier
Americans and corporations.
Boehner, the top U.S. Republican, last week drew his own
line in the sand: No tax increases.
The super committee is being watched by credit ratings
agencies, such as Standard and Poor's, which last month cut the
government's coveted AAA bond rating and and voiced concern
Washington was too divided to tackle its deficit problem.
The agencies want the super committee to go way beyond its
minimum requirement of $1.2 trillion in new savings.
Amid all these external pressures, super committee members
say they have agreed that clamming up and not negotiating a
budget deal in public is the only way to move forward.
(Additional reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Cynthia