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Deficit Panel Taking Work Behind Closed Doors

The Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction will hold its first full-member closed-door session Thursday morning, multiple sources have confirmed.

The panel, which is tasked with finding $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in savings over the next 10 years, has met twice publicly, and members from both parties have met among themselves.

Advance notice of private meetings of the super committee is not required. The rules approved in the group’s first meeting dictate that public hearings must be announced seven days in advance.

Multiple sources close to the committee indicated that co-Chairs Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) are likely to announce the next round of public events Thursday.

The agenda for the group’s next meeting has not yet been set, according to Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who told reporters in the Speaker’s Lobby on Wednesday that the panel would convene in private Thursday.

In their first two sessions, lawmakers in both parties emphasized that the group can find points of common ground based on previous bipartisan efforts, such as the recommendations released in December 2010 by the president’s deficit commission, and areas of agreement in last spring’s bipartisan, bicameral negotiating group led by Vice President Joseph Biden.

Tuesday’s public hearing of the joint committee included testimony from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf. Sources close to the committee indicated the intent of the public sessions is to allow experts and the public to weigh in on the issues of deficit reduction and the economy.

But not all lawmakers were pleased at the news of the closed-door meeting.

Freshman Sen. Dean Heller released a statement Wednesday afternoon knocking the panel’s decision to meet out of public view.

“The American people, along with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, have repeatedly asked the Super Committee to ensure the integrity of its process by opening all of its meetings to the public,” the Nevada Republican said. “I’m disappointed that they’ve decided to yet again ignore the American people’s right to know and have instead resigned to more inside-baseball negotiations. It is my fear that this first closed-door meeting will be the first of many. Given the extraordinary jurisdiction of this Committee, meetings should be held in full daylight for the public to see.”

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