Supercommittee still talking grand deal

Members of the deficit supercommittee on Tuesday said they are still seeking a grand bargain that would go beyond the group’s mandate to find $1.2 trillion in savings.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said at a Tuesday hearing that she is continuing to seek a deal that would include spending and entitlement cuts as well as tax revenue, even as the Nov. 23 deadline for the 12-member group looms.

“We are now entering the critical final phase of this process,” Murray said.

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The co-chairwoman of the panel reiterated her view that “the consequences of failure are unacceptable,” because failure would trigger across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending including on defense. But she also said that she is "hopeful" every member of her committee will embrace the type of grand bargain proposed by President Obama's fiscal commission.

She said “a bipartisan deal isn’t possible if members refuse to come out from their partisan or ideological corners.”

She said Democrats have “made clear” they are prepared to compromise.



“We’ve said we are very open to painful concessions and compromises if Republicans are as well— and we have put forward serious ideas that reflect that,” she said.


Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the co-chairman of the panel, also said that the group has a duty to go beyond its target. He highlighted the need to lower healthcare spending and fix Social Security.

Behind the scenes, some members of the supercommittee have been meeting to find out whether a smaller deal is possible in case the group is unable to bridge the yawning gap over taxes.

Democrats and Republicans on the panel exchanged proposals last week that would exceed the $1.2 trillion floor, but rejected each other’s offers. Republicans object to any new taxes in a deal, while Democrats balk at larger entitlement cuts, especially in the absence of tax hikes.

The supercommittee on Tuesday is hearing from the former heads of Obama’s fiscal commission, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles; and the leaders of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s deficit task force, Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici.

These budget experts are also urging a grand bargain and for both sides to make deeper concessions on taxes and spending.

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