Strategizing began in earnest yesterday for GOP members of the so-called supercommittee charged with reducing the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion in the wake of protracted summer debate over whether to raise the debt ceiling. The Republican committee members – including Pennsylvania's own Pat Toomey -- met for several hours in Washington .
Reached by phone after the all-day meeting, Mr. Toomey, declined to say what direction the talks are headed.
"We spent a lot of time sorting through the various options," he said. "We're definitely not at that stage of the process to rule anything out."
On thing Mr. Toomey intends to advocate for is deficit reductions that exceed the $1.5 trillion Congress agreed to seek.
"We need to do more than that because the magnitude of our deficit and accumulated debt is so large," he said.
The committeee has until Nov. 23 to report out a plan, which then must come to a full vote by Dec. 23. There's plenty of incentive to hash out a deal in the supercommittee. Otherwise, federal law calls for automatic spending reductions.
"There are several very senior members of the current administration who have suggested that the defense cuts are very severe, and I think some of them have used the word irresponsible," Mr. Toomey said.
There's strong incentive on both sides to meet the Nov. 23 deadline, but it won't be easy, Mr. Toomey said.
"We've got a difficult job to do," he said. "If it were easy it would have already been done and this committee would never have been necessary."
It isn't yet clear when the full committee will meet but that could happen as soon as next week, Mr. Toomey said.
The other GOP members are Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Dave Camp and Fred Upton, both of Michigan and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
Democratic supercommittee members – who have not yet had a formal meeting – are Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Xavier Becerra of California, James Clyburn of South Carolina and Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Max Baucus of Montana and John Kerry of Massachusetts.