Supercommittee members point fingers as hopes for deal drop

With just days left until their deadline, members of the deficit-reducing supercommittee took turns Sunday suggesting the other side would be at fault if the panel cannot reach an agreement.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the panel’s two co-chairmen, said in separate interviews on Sunday shows that they were not totally out of hope that the 12 lawmakers on the panel could report out a deal to cut deficits by $1.2 trillion by Wednesday.

The Sunday show fireworks were followed by a quiet, uneventful day in the Capitol, where there were no scheduled face-to-face meetings.

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A congressional staffer with knowledge of the supercommittee’s negotiations said late this afternoon that it was unlikely that the panel would have anything further to report on Sunday.

The slow Sunday caps a weekend in which the supercommittee appeared to all but grind to a halt, with a seeming lack of urgency and few sightings of panel members at the Capitol.

The Sunday shows back-and-forth also came amid rumors that supercommittee members were discussing ways to admit defeat, and as Washington observers of all stripes expressed doubt that the panel could reach an agreement.

Any deal would need to be sent to the Congressional Budget Office by tomorrow night to ensure a Wednesday vote.

In all, the appearances by six supercommittee members, three from each party, underscored the long-held differences on taxes and spending that the deficit-reduction panel has been so far unable to overcome.

In separate appearances, Murray, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) all accused Republicans of being unwilling to push the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations to contribute more revenues to rein in deficits.



"If there’s a Republican who gets up today and says I can't let the country see a failure out of this committee and comes to us and says, 'I'm willing to say there's revenue on the table,' I'll work all night long," Murray said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”


For their part, supercommittee Republicans said their Democratic colleagues had proven unable to pair restraint on entitlement programs with anything other than a huge tax hike.

"We're unclear of any Democratic offer that didn't include at least a trillion dollar tax increase on the American economy," Hensarling said. "It's not a matter of blame-worthiness, it's just a matter of fact. We believe that's bad for the economy."

GOP supercommittee members, as they have for days now, also touted a proposal pushed by Sen. Pat Toomey (D-Pa.) that would immediately lock in hundreds of billions of dollars of fresh revenue, a plan Republican lawmakers termed a huge concession on their part.

“This is an indication of how far Republicans would go to find a solution," Toomey said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

But Democrats roundly panned the proposal, which would have also permanently extended the Bush-era tax rates and pushed to lower tax rates even further, down to 28 percent for the highest earners.

The federal budget would face across-the-board cuts in 2013 if the supercommittee does not meet its $1.2 trillion goal, with defense being hit especially hard. That has led some on the left to say that triggering those cuts would be preferable to spending reductions on programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Republicans also proposed a scaled-down, $643 billion offer last week that would have cemented some already agreed-upon spending cuts. But Democrats laughed off the offer, saying it didn’t go nearly far enough on the tax side.

With all that in mind, supercommittee members seemed to use their Sunday appearances to lay the groundwork for what would happen if the panel does not reach an agreement, with Democrats charging that Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist, held too much sway over Republicans.

“I hear about this pledge, a pledge to a lobbyist, that gets in the way of our living up to that sacrifice and doing what’s right for our country,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” 

“The fact is, I took a pledge. My pledge is to the Constitution of the United States, to defend it.”

Hensarling, meanwhile, suggested that, if the panel cannot come together, he would use next year to try to soften the blow to defense in the across-the-board cuts.

But Becerra, like other Democrats, charged that making those sorts of changes would renege on an already agreed-upon outcome.

The California Democrat also appeared a bit more positive about the supercommittee’s chances than his colleagues, saying “we’re deep into the fourth quarter, but there’s still time on the clock.”

But Hensarling appeared to hold out little optimism that the panel could come together in its waning hours.

The Texas Republican also did not completely rule out having the panel consider, and presumably fail to approve, the two sides’ competing plans.
But he also said he didn’t find that a useful discussion.

Alexander Bolton, Justin Sink and Julian Pecquet contributed.

This story was posted at 12:33 p.m. and has been updated.