No one could have predicted:
WASHINGTON — With just five weeks until its deadline, a secretive Congressional committee seeking ways to cut the federal deficit is far from a consensus, and party leaders may need to step in if they want to ensure agreement, say people involved in the panel’s work.
The 12-member committee is just over halfway through the 76-day interval from its first meeting to the date its final report is due on Nov. 23, but has not gained much traction. The lawmakers have not agreed on basic elements like a benchmark against which savings will be measured. [...]
A Republican who has worked on Capitol Hill for more than two decades said: “Basically we are going in circles. It’s going very, very slowly. The only way this will work is if the leaders decide they want to get a deal and lay down parameters. Everybody is sitting around sucking their thumb until they get some guidance on what to do.”
Some lawmakers expressed similar views.
“My impression is they are not progressing too rapidly,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, which is responsible for Medicare, Medicaid and taxes. “Things are not moving too fast.”
Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, said: “These 12 people are no more autonomous than your left thumb. They need some guidance from the White House and from the leadership of Congress." [...]
A person working for the committee said members were “still hovering at 30,000 feet,” asking basic questions: “What is the baseline? Are we doing tax reform?"
In many ways, this is actually encouraging. It means that, at the very least, Democrats on the committee aren't giving in on key issues. Of course, they could also just give up and adopt the Gang of Six's ugly plan, something the Gang has been pushing. They had a closed-door meeting with the committee yesterday. They have to have something figured out by Nov. 23.