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

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The letter could reestablish the fraying sense of trust.

“We want to make the committee believe that there are people on both sides of the aisle supportive of their efforts and to show the American people that, though there are some difficulties, the Congress is not completely broken,” says nine-term Rep. Steve LaTourette (R) of Ohio.

Such bipartisan groups, a.k.a. “gangs,” are common in the Senate, especially at times of institutional crisis, but have been rare in the House, where House rules and party leaders hold stronger sway.

Led by Reps. Mike Simpson (R) of Idaho and Health Shuler (D) of North Carolina, lawmakers began meeting informally in the runup to the summer’s debt-limit crisis to seek common ground on fiscal issues. When the joint deficit committee was created to help break the impasse, the group switched gears to help support that effort.

After weeks of private discussions, the group settled on a plan to reach out to colleagues to build support for a big deal along the lines that President Obama and Speaker Boehner discussed and appeared close to agreeing to until talks collapsed in July.

“The language was negotiated. The Democrats went on their way and we went on ours in an attempt to convince members of our party to sign,” says Congressman LaTourette.

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