The bipartisan “Gang of Six” today briefed members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, but the content of the closed-door deliberations remain secret as the deadline to come up with a proposal for $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction approaches next month.
Members of the Gang of Six, including Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget committee, and Sens. Tom Coburn, Saxby Chambliss, Mike Crapo, Dick Durbin, and Mark Warner, were invited to brief the committee on their bipartisan proposal, which recommended $3.7 trillion in savings over the next 10 years. Their briefing lasted nearly two and a half hours.
“As a nation, we need a balanced, comprehensive plan to get this debt under control, and it’s absolutely essential we do,” Conrad, D-N.D., reported. “We very much appreciated the chance to go into significant detail [on] the conclusions we came to.”
Once the briefing was over, the six Democrats and six Republicans on the JSC split up to meet separately for about an hour to discuss the Gang of Six’s recommendations.
Leaving the meeting, members of the Table of Twelve were tight-lipped on the detail of today’s private meeting, which lasted a about three-and-a-half hours.
Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the chairman of the House committee on Energy and Commerce, and Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, left without making substantive comment, as did Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. Kyl described the briefing as a “good” meeting, but would not reveal its details to a strong contingency of the Capitol Hill press corps staking out members in the Capitol Visitors Center.
The committee has not met publicly since Sept. 22 and has no upcoming public hearings scheduled. One of the committee’s co-chairs, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, told reporters that he does expect to hold more public hearings in the future, although he declined to elaborate.
“It’s a group of very serious members who understand the gravity of the situation,” Hensarling, R-Texas, described the Gang of Six to a scrum of reporters.
Last week chairmen and ranking members of many of the House and Senate committees along with various caucuses in Congress submitted letters to the so-called Super Committee with recommendations for savings.
As outlined in the Budget Control Act, the committee has until Nov. 23 to pass a proposal with at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction for the full Congress to consider. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to score the proposal prior to the committee vote, so the JSC plan is likely to be released a few days ahead of the deadline.
Congress has until Dec. 23 to enact $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. If they fail to meet the deadline, sequestration cuts totaling $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction would kick in, slashing defense spending and Medicare benefits.