Supercommittee members stave off sense of deficit deal failure

Two supercommittee members said in separate interviews Friday that itstill possible to reach a deal, in an attempt to downplay talk that the deficit-reduction panel is headed for failure.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) on Friday pledged to work through the weekend to reach a deal by the committees Nov. 23 deadline. 

Confronting rumors that negotiations on the deadlocked panel are as good as dead, Van Hollen and Toomey separately told CNN that they believe there is still time to reach a deal.

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“We recognize whats at stake and were hoping to reach an agreement, Van Hollen said. “Lets see if we can do it.

Toomey also said its “still possible to reach a deal.

“Were going to stay at it, he said. “Its not going to be easy. Time is running short, but it hasnt run out yet.”

Toomey said supercommittee members are communicating in any and all ways as they hurdle toward the deadline. Van Hollen described the negotiations as “shuttle diplomacy.” The full supercommittee has not met officially for days, although Toomey said “many of us were in the same room together” Thursday night.

Lawmakers and aides have said the talks have reached an impasse, adding to a growing sense that the panel wont meet its deadline next week.

Van Hollen and Toomey also illustrated the wide gap that has yet to be bridged between Democratic and Republican members of the 12-member panel.

Van Hollen targeted Republicans in the room as the sticking point, decrying their position on taxes and indicating resistance to GOP ideas about entitlement reform, such as raising the retirement age, which he called a bad idea “right now.”

“Recently, [Republicans] appear to have dug in on their position, and what were trying to do is bridge those differences,” he said.

Toomey also addressed entitlements.

“Im not sure why we should harm the economy in order to do the right thing for entitlements,” he said, indicating resistance of his own to the idea that a compromise might mean giving in on tax breaks to increase revenue.

The committee was tasked with finding between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion in deficit-reducing savings as part of the summers debt-ceiling bargain. Failure to do so by Nov. 23 would trigger a series of automatic cuts totaling $1.2 trillion: half from defense and half from domestic spending. Those cuts wouldnt go into effect until 2013, giving lawmakers a year to come up with alternatives.