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Deficit Panel Leaders Say They’re on Same Page

The two leaders of the newly created Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction set a bipartisan tone Wednesday as they look to staff up the panel and decide on a meeting schedule.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who were tapped earlier this month by Congressional leaders as co-chairmen of the panel, said in their first joint communiqué that they “have been working together to ensure that the committee we help build is given every opportunity to succeed.”

“In our capacity as co-chairmen, we are engaging in serious discussions to determine what set of rules will govern the committee’s operation, examining a schedule of potential meetings and exploring how to build a committee staff that will help us achieve success,” the two said in the release.

Under the recently enacted law that established the 12-person committee, which is charged with identifying $1.5 trillion of deficit reduction over 10 years, the panel must hold its first meeting by Sept. 16. The law also stipulates that the two co-chairmen “acting jointly” will hire the committee’s staff director. With less than a month to go before the first meeting, the two leaders have a short period of time to hire staff and set the ground rules for the panel.

Other panel members are also prepping for their task, the committee leaders said.

“Additionally, most of the committee members are reviewing the deficit reduction work that many others have engaged in over the past several years,” the release read. “We are confident that most Americans will agree that when building an organization from the ground-up with a short time-table for success, it’s important to get it right the first time.”

A handful of deficit reduction packages have been floated in the past 18 months, including a plan from the Senate’s “gang of six,” the GOP-led House’s fiscal 2012 budget resolution and the package released by President Barack Obama’s deficit commission.

House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said last week that he is meeting with think tank budget experts and Democratic budget committee staff to work up recommendations he will make.

“We are excited that committee members and staff from both sides of the aisle are eager to engage one another as we begin our work,” Murray and Hensarling said. “We encourage our colleagues to participate in active and useful dialogue across the aisle and among our respective caucuses as we continue to work through this process.”

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