The first super committee debt panel public hearing was held on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011. During the hearing, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf offered testimony about the potential consequences of the rising cost of health care and the aging baby boomer population. He warned that federal spending would surpass revenue collected if current policies remain in place. The Congressional Budget Office Director suggested changes in spending, tax policies or both would be required to put the federal budget on a sustainable path.

Director Elmendorf declined to offer his opinion, when asked by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) if a “comprehensive” approach that combined increasing revenue and reforming entitlement programs would be preferable to efforts aimed at finding discretionary savings. He suggested that trying to cut the deficit later in the decade without making upfront cuts or tax increases could result “an added drag on the weak economic expansion.”

The 12-member bicameral panel must develop and pass at least $1.5 trillion in federal spending cuts over the next ten years. If the reductions are not made by November, it would trigger a series of across-the-board cuts. However, medicare would be protected and Medicaid would be exempt from those cuts. The super committee is not bound by the same stipulations and the panel’s suggestions may include deep cuts to entitlements.