August 24, 2011 / 8:26 PM / 8 years ago

Deficit "super" panelists studying others' work

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The heads of a U.S. Congress deficit “super committee” said on Wednesday most members were reviewing budget-balancing studies of recent years in a sign the panel was unlikely to try to reinvent the wheel.

Representative Jeb Hensarling, (R-TX), speaks during a Reuters Finance Summit in Washington February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“Most of the committee members are reviewing the deficit reduction work that many others have engaged in over the past several years,” said a joint statement from Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling.

The two are co-chairmen of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction established by Congress as part of a recent deal to raise the federal debt ceiling. The committee must find at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over 10 years.

Their statement was brief, with few details on the outlook for the panel, which will be under intense scrutiny when it starts working. When that happens has been a topic of much speculation on Capitol Hill in recent days.

The panel’s first meeting is unlikely to occur before September 6, said a Senate aide familiar with the discussions.

The committee has a $2 million budget and will use that to hire staff and hold hearings, the location and frequency of which is still up in the air. Under the statute establishing it, the panel’s first meeting must occur by September 16.

Several recent deficit-reduction proposals are sure to be under review by the panelists, including the December 2010 Bowles-Simpson report that called for a major tax code overhaul and deep spending cuts reaching every corner of the government and offending special interests across the political spectrum.

Bowles-Simpson urged a range of tax rises, as well. So did a November 2010 report by a group of experts organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank.

“We are excited that committee members and staff from both sides of the aisle are eager to engage one another as we begin our work,” Murray and Hensarling said.

The super committee must complete and vote on a proposal by November 23 for submission to Congress as legislation. Congress must give the proposal an up or down vote, with no amendments allowed, by December 23. If either deadline goes unmet, $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts are triggered in 2013.

Editing by Howard Goller and Eric Beech

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