Lawmakers make last-ditch effort to reach supercommittee deal

Supercommittee members met Monday in an effort to reach a last-ditch deal to reduce the federal deficit.

Seven of the supercommittee members — three Republicans and four Democrats — met Monday morning, hours before the panel’s midnight deadline to send a deal to the Congressional Budget Office to be scored.

The Republican members then retired to Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) office for discussions.

A GOP leadership aide told The Hill that the group was not discussing a statement of failure, but a last-ditch effort to avoid a failure that has seemed inescapable over the weekend, when supercommittee members turned to the Sunday talk shows to blame one another for the impasse.

At the same time, aides suggested the latest talks were unlikely to end with success. 

One GOP aide said members were discussing a new proposal on taxes from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), which the aide dismissed as a gimmick. 

"At the eleventh hour, Sen. Kerry offered a new gimmick to get to the Democrats' same trillion-dollar tax hike. There is no indication that any other [panel] Democrat supports it," a GOP aide said.

The Republican members who attended the bipartisan meeting in Kerry’s office suite were Portman, Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.) and Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.).

Democrats attending the meeting were Kerry, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.) and Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the co-chairwoman of the panel.

Baucus, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, said both sides are still searching for a deal.

"We're still going forward," he said. "We have a few more hours."

Baucus said Kerry "has a new idea" for the tax reform portion of the package, but declined to provide details.

"It's a new idea, which confirms my point that we're continuing to meet," Baucus said. "Both sides are feeling angst, greater angst, at the possibility of no agreement, so they're working harder, more creatively to see what can be accomplished. That's happening on both sides."

Aides from Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office joined the GOP supercommittee members for the Republican meeting in Portman's office a little over 30 minutes after it began.

Boehner’s office already has sent out a memo blaming President Obama for a failure by the supercommittee.

The supercommittee faces a Wednesday deadline to agree to at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years. If it fails, automatic cuts to national security and domestic spending would be triggered, though they would not be implemented until January 2013.

The panel members must get a deal to budget examiners by the end of the day in order for it to be scored by Wednesday.

Baucus downplayed the significance of Monday's falling stock markets, saying it's "down a little bit, [but] stock markets also go back up."

Hopes that a deal could be reached appeared to flicker in the comments from Democrats attending the Monday meeting. 

Van Hollen said ideas were being discussed, while Baucus said the group still had "a few more hours." 

— Erik Wasson contributed to this report.

— Posted at 2:03  p.m. and last updated at 4:08 p.m.