American Society of Hematology

New "Super Committee" Meets; Begins Work on Deficit Reduction

Published on: September 15, 2011

The compromise debt ceiling law ("The Budget Control Act of 2011") passed in August created a special joint committee (often referred to as the "Super Committee") with the goal of achieving at least $1.2 trillion in budgetary savings over 10 years, from spending cuts or tax revenue.

The special committee must report a bill with its recommendations by November 23, 2011. The recommendations would then have to be voted on by the full House and Senate under special rules. If the joint committee or Congress fail to act by December 23, 2011, the bill calls for automatic across-the-board cuts, split 50-50 between defense and non-defense spending, including Medicare. Social Security and Medicaid would be excluded from those automatic cuts. 

The plan also requires the House of Representatives and Senate to vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which would require a two-thirds majority in both houses. That vote must take place by December 31, 2011.

In its first organizational meeting September 8, opening statements from the members reflected contrasting goals and priorities with Republican members focused on pursuing tax reform while Democrats will push for job creation in the Super Committee. One issue the Super Committee agreed on unanimously was a rules package, including a rule allowing the panel to conduct closed-door meetings, if a majority of the members agrees to do so.

Because health-related programs were largely spared from cuts in the Budget Control Act and because the Super Committee's failure to achieve its task would trigger an automatic Medicare cut, just about every sector of the health industry is anxious about this process. For example, researchers worry about protecting funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies; medical schools are concerned about proposals to create savings by severely cutting graduate medical education; and physicians are urging the Super Committee to thwart a scheduled 29.5 percent reduction in 2012 Medicare physician payments (which adds $300 billion to the deficit reduction target and makes the Super Committee's fiscal reduction mandate much larger).

Members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction

Senate MembersPatty Murray, Washington, Co-ChairJon Kyl, Arizona
 Max Baucus, MontanaRob Portman, Ohio
 John Kerry, MassachusettsPat Toomey, Pennsylvania
House MembersXavier Becerra, CaliforniaJeb Hensarling, Texas, Co-Chair
Jim Clyburn, South CarolinaFred Upton, Michigan
Chris Van Hollen, MarylandDave Camp, Michigan
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