* Committee has nine days left to strike a deal
* Show of unity planned on steps of U.S. Capitol
* Lawmakers have personal stake in committee's success
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Nov 14 Republican and Democratic
U.S. lawmakers aim to present a dramatic show of support this
week for a congressional "super committee" racing against the
clock to agree on a deficit-cutting plan.
The lawmakers, worried about the political and economic
consequences of failure, are crossing party lines and eschewing
the trench warfare that has marred debate over how to cut
America's deficit, now topping more than $1 trillion a year.
In a symbolic show of unity that is rare in the polarized
world of modern Washington politics, as many as 150 members of
Congress are expected to stand together on the Capitol steps on
Tuesday to demonstrate solidarity with the committee.
"There's been plenty of speculation that the super
committee will fail. We'll show we want them to succeed," a
senior Republican aide told Reuters.
The nearly 150 lawmakers represent about half the
Democratic-controlled 100-member Senate and roughly a quarter
of the 435-member Republican-dominated House of
The unusual event on the Capitol steps is likely to attract
widespread media attention. But it is unclear what impact it
will have on the committee members who are struggling behind
closed doors to overcome deep ideological differences over
taxes hikes and cuts to government-run healthcare and
The super committee faces a Nov. 23 deadline, now just nine
days away, to reach a deal to cut U.S. deficits by at least
$1.2 trillion over 10 years.
Success would send a strong signal to credit ratings
agencies and global investors that the United States is taking
credible steps to lighten its debt burden. Failure would
trigger automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion that would hit
defense and domestic spending.
But the panel has shown few signs of progress. Negotiations
are complicated by the 2012 election campaign, in which both
parties want to convince voters they will be the best stewards
of an economy still trying to recover from a deep recession.
Thirty-three Senate seats and all House seats are up for
Republican committee member Senator Patrick Toomey told
"Fox News Sunday" the committee was aware the "clock is running
out," but he was still hopeful of a deal. A Democratic member,
Representative James Clyburn, said a deal was still possible,
but he was not as confident as he was 10 days ago.
Standard and Poor's downgraded the country's AAA credit
rating in August, largely because it viewed the differences
between the two parties as "extraordinarily difficult to
KEEPING UP THE PRESSURE
Two months after the super committee began talks,
Republican opposition to tax hikes and Democratic resistance to
big cuts to popular social programs remain key hurdles.
Tuesday's event on Capitol Hill is aimed at pressing
committee members to compromise.
"We want to encourage, nudge, cajole the committee to go
big," a Democratic aide said. The pressure group wants the
committee to agree on a deficit-reduction deal of at least $3
trillion, far more than its mandated target.
"We'll show there's support in the House and Senate, among
Democrats and Republicans, for a deal," the aide said.
The lawmakers pushing for the super committee to strike a
deal say it is crucial to the country's fiscal health, but
politicians also have a personal stake in its success.
With Congress' approval rating already at a record-low 9
percent, voters are likely to view the committee's failure as
another example of Washington's inability to govern. That could
hurt both parties in 2012.
"If they don't get something done, it's going to be bad for
incumbents," said John Feehery, a former Republican aide turned
Those set to come together on the Capitol steps include
many, if not all, of the 103 House members (61 Democrats and 42
Republicans) and 45 senators (23 Republicans and 22 Democrats)
who recently wrote letters to the super committee urging budget
savings of at least $3 trillion.
Ethan Siegal of The Washington Exchange, which tracks
Washington for investors, is skeptical that the bipartisan
initiatives will translate into super committee action.
"I'm not sure that the bipartisan pressure has enough
political juice to make it happen," he said.