A bipartisan pair of supercommittee members huddled behind closed doors Monday night at the Capitol, as the debt-reduction panel faces a critical deadline in nine days.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, met with House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, in the latter’s committee office for about a half-hour. A Republican aide described the meeting as “impromptu.”
“We’re were just kicking around ideas … a little bit of this and that,” said Mr. Van Hollen as the two lawmakers walked briskly away from reporters after the gathering.
Minutes earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stood outside a nearby conference room and said she hopes the supercommittee incorporates President Obama’s proposed $447 billion jobs-stimulus bill into its debt-reduction proposal.
“Why not do something really dramatic that really creates jobs, reduces the deficit and helps our economy grow in a balanced way?” the California Democrat told a small gathering of reporters. “I think that the jobs initiative should be the centerpiece” of the supercommittee’s plan.
When asked if the panel was indeed discussing the jobs bill, she said, “Yes, that’s my understanding.” She then added; “But I don’t really know because I’m not in the room.”
Unlike the three other party leaders in the Congress — House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican — Mrs. Pelosi reportedly has taken a more hands-off approach to the panel.
“My members don’t have any leash,” she said. “They’re in there using their judgment, their knowledge, their understanding of what a good agreement is.”
The committee has until a week from Wednesday to agree on a plan to lower the federal debt by $1.5 trillion. Failure would trigger $1.2 trillion across-the-board spending cuts, about half directed at the Pentagon.