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An attendee holds an alarm clock in front of the Senate Budget Committee hearing room to indicate that time is running out on the Super Committee, before a rally on Social Security and Medicareat the Dirksen Senate Building November 17, 2011 in Washington, DC.

More than 20 Senators and seven Representatives have begun work on a compromise budget that liberals and conservatives can live with, before new sequester cuts hit in January.

We’ve been down this road before. In fact, the failure of the 2011 “supercommittee” is what led to the sequester cuts taking effect in the first place. 

Supercommittee alumni – former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) – have some advice for members of the new budget conference commission:

Former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

“We wasted a lot of time in the super committee following a vapor trail that was never going to produce anything tangible. The reality is one side wants entitlement reform to get a handle on spending, the other side doesn’t. That side wants tax revenue increases, the first side does not. So, you have two pretty intractable forces here, with a country split in probably the same way, and until the dynamic changes, you’re only going to be able to work it at the margins, I think. You’re not going to be able to do the fundamental change that either party wants.”

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

“We know what the real problems are here. We know we’ve been down this entitlements list before. We know what revenue has to be addressed. We know the provisions of sequestration. Let’s find a rough outline.”

“There is never going to be an agreement that pleases everybody. Listen. Get a long-term solution -- it doesn’t have to solve all the problems, but a good bit of them, and then we can improve upon it later on.”

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)

“When these negotiators walk into the room, they have to put everything on the table when it comes to the budget. They can’t have preconditions; they can’t have special interests that they’re protecting. Everything should be on the table so we can come up with a balanced approach.”

“Stop with the preconditions. Don’t protect the sacred cows. Be prepared to put everything on the table, and before you know it, human nature being what it is, I think we’ll come to the middle ground. But you have to stop people from saying we can do everything except this. Once you start putting the exceptions out there, everyone has to put on the table or take off the table their exceptions. Hang your egos at the door, and hang your preconditions at the door at the same time.”

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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