Members of Congress' debt reduction supercommittee said Thursday that their assignment of finding ways to reduce government red ink won't be simple.
Emerging from a private breakfast meeting among the panel's members, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, told reporters: "We know that it will not be fun. We know it will not be easy, it will not be popular with any current political constituency."
Thursday's hour-and-a-half meeting over muffins, coffee and orange juice was the first time the 12-member panel had met behind closed doors to begin its work, said one member, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. The committee consists of six Democrats and six Republicans, equally divided between the House and Senate, and Hensarling is a co-chair.
His counterpart, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said panel members understand "the importance and weight of the decisions we have to make, and we stand ready to get to work."
The supercommittee has held two public meetings. It has approved its rules of operation and heard expert testimony on the federal budget's gloomy outlook if action isn't taken to control the government's accumulated $14 trillion in debt.
The panel has until Thanksgiving to approve $1.5 trillion in 10-year budget savings, either spending cuts, tax increases or both. If Congress doesn't approve at least $1.2 trillion in debt reduction by Christmas, automatic spending cuts will be triggered, affecting hundreds of government programs.
Hensarling and Murray said the panel hoped to release a schedule for upcoming sessions later Thursday.
"Everybody knows that there is a moment in history than can be seized, a moment in history that must be seized," Hensarling said. "The American people are watching, they wish to see their government work."