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Bipartisan plea for $4 trillion in deficit cuts: why it could work

A bipartisan group of 100 House members will call for the deficit 'super committee' to make massive deficit cuts – even if it means entitlement or tax reform. The strong backing could be key.

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Members of the so-called deficit 'super committee' hold a public hearing with Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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In a rare flicker of bipartisanship, at least 100 House members, half Democrats and half Republicans, are going public next week with a letter urging Congress’s deficit “super committee” to aim for a big, grand bargain – taking nothing off the table.

The Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction has until Nov. 23 to produce a plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Amid concerns that the panel may be sliding into gridlock, this bipartisan fiscal group aims to show that there is a critical mass of House members willing to take political risks to support a significant deficit-reduction plan.

For Republicans, that means an openness to tax hikes. For Democrats, it’s a willingness to consider cuts to entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.

The intervention of a strong, bipartisan group in the House could persuade House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio to back the bill – support that would be crucial to its passage. Moreover, the letter could be timely.

Until recently, the 12-member deficit panel has maintained a tight embargo on leaks – typically a sign that closed-door negotiations are serious and trust is prevailing. But this week, bargaining positions began leaking, along with reports of tough, partisan pushback.

On Tuesday, aides apparently leaked a report that Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, had proposed $3 trillion in deficit reduction, including at least $1 trillion in tax hikes – a nonstarter for Republicans. Republicans reportedly responded with calls for more of the burden of debt reduction to come from entitlement cuts, a nonstarter for Democrats.

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