Minnesota Public Radio

WASHINGTON - Keith Ellison and other House progressives want the so-called Congressional "Super Committee" that's supposed to find major deficit savings to also focus on job creation.

The DFL Congressman asked the committee's co-chairs, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), to hold public hearings on how Congress can energize the job market rather than simply focusing on making cuts to social programs.

"The Republican Cut, Crash and Bust approach to the economy is failing, and we need to change course as soon as possible," Ellison said in a statement. "We need to focus on job creation so we can put America back to work and avoid a double dip recession."

Ellison argued that reducing unemployment, currently above nine percent, will cut the deficit by strengthening the economy.

Ellison, along with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus. With more than 70 House members in its ranks, the group is a powerful voting bloc within the Democratic House minority.

The committee, known officially as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, is made of six House members and six Senators, divided equally between both parties. Created as part of a deal in this months debt ceiling increase, it will have an unusual amount of power, with the ability to bring a comprehensive deficit reduction package to the floor of both chambers with no amendments and any mixture of spending cuts and tax increases seven of the panel's 12 members can agree to.

The committee is still organizing itself but must propose a package of long-term deficit cuts totaling at least $1.2 trillion by Thanksgiving. The House and Senate must vote on the the bill by Christmas and if it's not passed, mandatory spending cuts of $1.2 trillion will kick in, hitting both domestic and military spending.