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Super Congress Plans To Hold Public Meetings

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HENSARLING
AP

WASHINGTON -- The so-called Super Congress will attempt to hold the majority of its meetings in public, in full view of the voters and the press, the co-chairs of the committee announced on Thursday after its first meeting. At least, they will really try.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) took the helm at that first meeting, but he and his co-chair, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), plan to alternate that responsibility, with Murray leading the next one. They devoted the meeting mostly to setting procedures and rules, which were posted online shortly after the meeting was completed.

The proceedings were interrupted once, when protesters outside shouted, "Jobs now!" and held up signs calling on the committee to "Tax the rich."

The super committee, formally named the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, is tasked with finding at least $1.5 trillion in spending cuts by Thanksgiving, as part of the agreement to raise the debt limit last month. The members of the committee, who now hold extraordinary power in the House and Senate, are expected to present a filibuster-proof, amendment-free recommendation to both chambers in November.

Twelve members serve on the committee, split between both parties and houses: Sens. Murray, Max Baucus (D-Mont.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Reps. Hensarling, Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

According to the new rules, the co-chairs will be required to provide an agenda two days in advance of each meeting, and other members will be required to post their proposed recommendations a day ahead of the sessions. Staff will keep a full record of the votes and discussion at all meetings, which will then be made available to the public.

The Super Congress website will publish the text of each individual recommendation within 24 hours of the committee's agreeing to it and will post transcripts and video when possible. All meetings should be open and accessible to the public.

Still, there may be closed meetings, provided the Super Congress votes to close them to the public and media. The committee cannot vote on recommendations, language or amended language during those meetings, according to the rules.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday, Sept. 13.

CORRECTION, 9:20 p.m. -- A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the meetings would all be held in public; in fact, there are provisions in the rules that will allow for some closed meetings.

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