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Lobbyists seek to penetrate debt committee

Sep 15, 2011, 10:12 p.m.
A view of Capitol Hill in Washington August 1, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

"The super committee members have to be responsive to the rank and file member because ultimately they have to pass something. The super committee cannot operate in a vacuum. The super committee members are accountable up to the party leadership and accountable down to the rank and file."

MOST INFLUENCE

So early in the process it is unclear which members of Congress will have the best chance of influencing committee members.

But Howard said on the Republican side, John Boehner, the House Speaker, and Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, were keeping heavily involved in the super committee's work. Both men handpicked the Republicans who sit on the committee.

"They will keep a tight rein on the process," Howard said, making it important for him to keep in close contact with the Republican party leadership on Capitol Hill.

The effort to influence what gets cut and what get saved inside the committee will be unprecedented, and intense. According to a study released this week by LegiStorm, a watchdog group, there are 11,700 registered lobbyists in Washington -- and 14,000 people who work on Capitol Hill.

In the past 10 years, the study added, more than 5,000 former congressional staffers and nearly 400 former lawmakers became federal lobbyists.

One lobbyist, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: "It's not just going to be the 12 members who decide this.

There's a dual strategy: you talk to members of Congress to get them to talk to the super committee members; and you talk to members with an eye on the vote they will take on whether or not they pass the deal."

(Reporting by Tim Reid, Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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