All Eyes Turn to Deficit Panel, Herculean $1.5T Task
Committee must come up with $1.5T in cuts
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2011 7:51 AM CDT
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) departs the House chamber after the House vote on the debt extension at the US Capitol on August 1, 2011 in Washington, DC.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The debt deal has been signed, but the work is far from over: Now a special committee must figure out how to cut $1.5 trillion more from the deficit. The bipartisan panel, which will be composed of six Democrats and six Republicans, was created by the measure after President Obama and John Boehner failed to come up with a "grand bargain" including both tax increases and cuts to safety-net programs. Of course, the White House is already fighting with the GOP over what budget projections the committee should use to estimate future deficits, the Wall Street Journal reports.

House and Senate leaders must name panel members within two weeks, and Republicans are determined not to select anyone who will submit to tax increases—although some Republicans are open to ending tax breaks, as opposed to raising tax rates. Once selected, committee members must make recommendations by Nov. 23; Congress will vote on the package—without amending it—by Dec. 23. Senate approval will only require 51 votes rather than the usual 60 to avoid filibuster. And of course, if the committee fails to come up with a proposal or Congress fails to pass it, the $1.2 trillion "trigger" kicks in. The Los Angeles Times notes that advocates for the elderly are particularly concerned about that possibility, since cuts to Medicare could result in a significant loss of services.