The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction held its first public meeting on September 8 to discuss organizational matters. The joint committee, otherwise known as the Super Committee, was established as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (see Memo, 8/5). The committee is charged with identifying $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by November 23.
If the committee does not reach its deficit reduction goal, a sequestration process will begin in FY13. Sequestration would reduce the discretionary caps for security and non-security spending by the amount that the committee fell short of its deficit reduction target. Congress already established discretionary funding caps for the next ten years that will significantly constrain non-security discretionary spending through the Budget Control Act of 2011. Additional cuts to non-security discretionary programs could result in acute cuts to federal housing programs.
At the first Super Committee meeting, co-chairs Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) provided opening statements and held a vote on the committee’s rules. Senator Murray said that the nation’s finances are in deep and serious trouble. She expressed confidence that Congress can work cooperatively to face these problems since the nation has faced deeper challenges before. The committee “owe[s] it to the families that we all represent, to finally come together to put their needs first,” said Senator Murray.
Mr. Hensarling expressed his view that the committee’s responsibility is to ensure debt is not passed onto future generations. Other committee members commented on the need to increase jobs. Republicans blamed spending for the nation’s fiscal problems and jobs deficit, while their Democratic counterparts said the government has not focused job creation sufficiently.
Opening statements of Super Committee members were interrupted by a protest in the hallway outside of the meeting room. The committee halted discussion for several minutes while security quieted the chants of “jobs now!”
After the meeting reconvened, members finished their statements and passed the proposed set of rules for the committee. The rules allow the committee to hold private meetings in the future.
The Committee hired as director Mark Prater, a former Republican staffer for the Senate Finance Committee, the week of August 29 and as deputy director Sarah Kuehl, former senior budget analyst on the Senate Budget Committee, the week of September 5.
The Committee will hold its first hearing on September 13 with Douglas Elmdorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), testifying on the history and drivers of the nation’s debt.