In advance of the first hearing of the deficit-reduction supercommittee Tuesday, a committee member said he’s heading into the room with “optimism tempered by realism.”
“I have high hopes and tempered expectations,” co-chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Most of the 12 members of the committee have been cautious to express their willingness to put everything on the table, including issues that have been major stumbling blocks for Democrats and Republicans in previous debt negotiations, such as entitlements and tax reform.
“I’m not going to say anything’s off the table — doesn’t mean I’m bringing it to the table,” Hensarling said. He is not in favor of including tax increases in the package.
Asked if he would bet that the committee will achieve its task of negotiating a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction package to present to Congress by Nov. 23, Hensarling was reluctant.
“I'm not a betting man ... [but] I’m going to try hard” to make the goal, he said.
Hensarling noted that cuts to federal spending will be made one way or another, if not through negotiation then through the automatic cuts built into the bill. Those cuts are set to include $600 billion from the defense budget. Another member of the supercommittee, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), last week threatened to quit negotiations if further cuts to Pentagon spending are considered in the deal.
The full committee met for the first time Sept. 8 to consider committee rules. On Tuesday, the committee will hear testimony from witnesses on the history and causes of national debt.