Financial Reform Watch

Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Holds First Hearing

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction held its first hearing today, with each member delivering an opening statement, followed by a vote on the rules of the committee.

The Members’ opening statements were remarkably consistent in their calls for a bipartisan solution that will not only reduce the deficit but also create jobs and spur economic growth. Co-Chair Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said “Deficit reduction and a path to fiscal sustainability are themselves a jobs program.” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) echoed his sentiment, saying “We can’t fix our budget without fixing jobs, and we can’t fix jobs without fixing our budget.”

Members on both sides of the aisle emphasized that they intend to build on existing deficit reduction plans, specifically citing the Domenici-Rivlin, Simpson-Bowles and Gang of Six proposals, saying that with such limited time, they plan to take full advantage of the work that has already been done. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kerry also said that while cutting $1.5 trillion in spending poses an unprecedented challenge, they hope that the Committee will “aim higher” and further reduce spending.

Rep. Hensarling said that the Joint Committee rules will be similar to the rules of any standing committee in the House or the Senate and that he and co-chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will alternate serving as chair of the hearings. He went on to say that the committee aims to be as transparent as possible and will be as accessible to the public as any other committee, with the caveat that, like other committees, there will also be closed-door discussions and working sessions open only to committee members. Sen. Murray added that she and Rep. Hensarling are in the process of drafting the hearing schedule and that all hearings will be announced at least seven days in advance. The next hearing, entitled “The History and Drivers of Our Nation’s Debt,” will be held on Tuesday, September 13th.

Developed under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the 12-member bipartisan committee is required to develop a proposal to cut the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The committee is comprised of six Representatives and six Senators and is co-chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). Representatives Dave Camp (R-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), James Clyburn (D-SC), Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), John Kerry (D-MA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) also serve on the committee. The committee is required to report its proposal to Congress by November 23, 2011. Both the House and Senate must vote the Joint Committee Proposal up or down, without any amendments, by December 23, 2011.

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