The twelve members of Congress? so-called ?Super Committee? held their first public meeting today. It was largely a pro-forma type event with opening statements all around and the approval of the committee?s rules.The Committee will meet again next week to hear from the Congressional Budget Office and could also schedule meetings with the Chairs of two other deficit panels, Bowles/Simpson and Rivlin/Domenici to hear about their proposals. The committee co-chairmen also said they may also go behind closed doors on ?important issues?. It?s hard to imagine what wouldn?t qualify as an ?important? issue given the enormity of the panel?s mission. The National Journal reports:
Not all of the meetings and discussions of the 12-member super committee on deficit reduction will be conducted in public, the two leaders said on Thursday, despite calls from colleagues that the panel?s work all be done in open session.Co-chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., echoing fellow co-chair Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said, ?We looked at how House and Senate committees operate, and we worked together to make sure this committee met publicly, but also had the ability to meet just among members to discuss important issues.?The committee?s official deadline to report out recommendations for deficit reduction is Nov. 23, but Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said realistically the panel needs to complete its work by the end of October in order to have a final product by Thanksgiving.As the meeting was getting under way, more than a dozen protesters interrupted with chants of ?What do we want? Jobs! When do we need ?em? NOW!? The chants caused Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., to stop speaking, and the meeting paused briefly as staff struggled to block out the noise.
A common theme throughout today?s testimony was also ?we don?t have to start from scratch? with some urging their ?Super Committee? colleagues to pick up where other deficit reduction groups left off. Democrat Chris Van Holen even suggested reports provided by the Fiscal Commission and fiscal hawks Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici should be a ?framework? because they provided ?a balanced approach?. Given that Bowles/Simpson proposed savings through 2/3 budget cuts and 1/3 revenue increases, that strikes us as far from the type of ?balance? expected by most Americans. Both reports also included major changes to Social Security with Rivlin/Domenici including Medicare premium and cost sharing changes that would be devastating for seniors. Balanced, really?Time will tell what Washington?s idea of shared sacrifice really means. Meanwhile, President Obama will make a desperately needed pivot to the issue of job creation in an address to the Joint Session of Congress tonight at 7:00pm.