By Justin Sink
With the debt supercommittee poised to admit failure later in the day, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Monday pushed back against Democratic criticism that he blocked efforts to reach a deficit-cutting deal.
In a spate of morning appearances, the supercommittee member argued that he was "dedicated to trying to find a solution" and that it was Republicans who had made a "breakthrough" offer that might have helped the committee reach a deal.
Kyl disputed a report in The New York Times that had Democrats pointing the finger at him, characterizing him as "the main obstacle to an agreement." During an interview Monday on Fox News, he said the report's claims he obstructed negotiations were "a characterization that would be unfair to any of the members of the committee."
Kyl said on CNBC that the real problem was that incentives were aligned for the Democrats to avoid compromise. Failure, Kyle noted, would lead to "the biggest tax hike in the history of the country" when the Bush tax cuts expire in 2013, as well as to automatic cuts to "their favorite program, namely national defense," and the campaign advantage that "the president gets to keep his message there's a dysfunctional Congress."
"The incentives probably did not align as we thought they might ... once the other side made the calculation that they needed someone to blame because there wasn't time to make the economy better," Kyl said.
Kyl also pointed out that Republicans were willing to consider closing some tax loopholes on the wealthiest Americans.
"That's the big news out of the process: Republicans put the only new proposal on the table," Kyl said on Fox.
He also noted that noted anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist came out against Republican Sen. Pat Toomey's (Pa.) proposal. An analysis in the Times, however, said that the Toomey plan would have ultimately lowered tax burdens for the wealthiest Americans, and potentially raised taxes on the poor and middle class. Kyl disputed that characterization.
"They did not actually have a final written version," Kyl said on CNBC.
Kyl said that while the sides would continue to meet Monday, he doubted a last-minute compromise would be struck.
"I wouldn't be optimistic; I don't want to bring you false hope here; the point is that we're still talking," Kyl said.
He added that he expected the committee's co-chairmen to issue a statement on Monday afternoon with news about whether a deal had been reached.