Where To Find $1.5 Trillion: ‘Super Committee’ Works on Deal

As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the Super Committee, works up against its Nov. 23  deadline to identify at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade through spending cuts and/or revenue increases, time is running short to meet its mandate.

The 12-member committee – split evenly between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate – has met regularly since early September, and oftentimes twice daily since the beginning of this month in private sessions.

But as members of the committee remain tight-lipped about the ongoing deliberations, it’s unclear how much headway the committee is actually making just six weeks before time runs out and the Capitol turns into a proverbial pumpkin.

Tomorrow, Oct. 14, is the deadline for any standing committees to submit their own recommendations to the super committee.

Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released recommendations for revenue increases and savings from 16 Democratic ranking committee members, and she wrote a letter to the co-chairs of the Super Committee – Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Jeb Hensarling – urging them to strike a balanced approach to meet the committee’s objective.

“The House Democratic Caucus is firmly committed to a deficit reduction plan that is big, bold, and balanced,” Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote today. “Such a balanced approach presents the best chance for bipartisan support within the Congress.  The American people overwhelmingly agree that significant revenues must be included in any plan and support a balanced approach.”

House Speaker John Boehner has urged the super committee to go for as big a deal as possible, but Republicans have strictly resisted any proposals that amount to a tax increase.

“The so-called Super Committee has a big job to do,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters today. “They know it, we know it, and no one expected this would occur without some difficulty, but the conversations continue, and I expect they will continue, because I believe that an outcome and a result is essential to reduce the debt burden on the American people and to show the markets that we’re serious about dealing with our own problems.”

If the Congress passes a balanced budget amendment before the end of the year, an unlikely feat particularly in the Senate, then the total of deficit reduction required would drop to $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

“There’s a lot of discussion about – on the House side – about the balanced budget amendment, the need to have a real enforcement mechanism on government spending,” Boehner said today. “You know, 48 states have such an amendment as part of their constitution and many of us feel that the ultimate enforcement mechanism on government is to have a balanced budget requirement. As outlined in the Deficit Reduction Act [ the Budget Control Act], there will be a vote in the House and Senate after Oct. 1, but before the end of the year on a balanced budget amendment and I would hope that it would pass.”

Boehner would not specify how soon the House of Representatives could vote on the measure.

The Super Committee is expected to work right down to the Nov. 23 deadline, although the Congressional Budget Office would need to score the proposal before the committee votes on it so the panel’s recommendations could be released a few days ahead of the deadline.

The deadline for Congress to enact either the committee’s proposal or an amended version of its own choosing is December 23.

The second phase of the debt limit increase is contingent on the success of the deficit reduction committee. If Congress fails to meet the bar for deficit reduction, then the Office of Management and Budget is required to cut, by means of a sequester, $1.2 trillion from the budget during the years 2013-2021. The sequestration is designed to deter Congress from failing to act and the cuts would be split evenly between the non-exempt portions of defense spending and non-defense spending, like Medicare, providing both political parties with a strong incentive for action.