* No signs of an outline for a plan
* Leading House Democrat says expectations are low
By Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House still has
hopes for a congressional deal to cut the U.S. budget deficit,
despite a looming Nov. 23 deadline and low expectations from
the 12-member "super committee" charged with making a deal.
Many in Washington are growing increasingly pessimistic
about the prospects for an agreement among the Democratic and
Republican lawmakers on the special budget panel.
But White House budget director Jack Lew said Wednesday
he has been in regular contact with the panel's members and
viewed such prognostications as premature.
"I think that we have a habit in Washington of trying to
write obituaries while the patient is still fighting," Lew said
at a Politico Playbook breakfast. "I do live my life as an
With the panel's deadline for reaching an agreement only
three weeks away, there is no visible sign yet of a plan or
even the outline of one.
On Wednesday, Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House
of Representatives, described expectations for the super
committee's success as low.
The legislation that established the panel of six Democrats
and six Republicans requires agreement on at least $1.2
trillion in budget savings over 10 years to avoid setting off
automatic budget "triggers" that would force deep cuts in both
domestic and defense programs.
Revenue increases are at the heart of the super committee's
logjam. Democrats insist they must be part of any deficit
reduction deal but Republicans are so far sticking to their
resistance to higher taxes.
Under a separate process, the U.S. Congress -- where
Republicans control the House and Democrats have a majority in
the Senate -- also must agree on bills to fund the government
for the rest of the fiscal year that started Oct. 1.
A bill was passed in early October to keep the government
funded temporarily but that expires on Nov. 18.
Asked if he was worried about a government shutdown if
Congress cannot pass the bills at the end of the year, Lew said
he was hopeful that could be avoided.
"There is a risk," he said. "There's no doubt that this
could become another one those ideological conflicts. It
(Writing by Caren Bohan; Editing by Bill Trott)
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