One of the supercommittee’s six Democrats said Friday it would not be a failure if the panel didn’t reach a deal and automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending were triggered.
Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraThe No Surprises Act: a bill long overdue Ohio sues Biden over reversal of Trump-era abortion referral ban Biden administration moves to make at-home COVID-19 tests more available MORE (D-Calif.) said he’d prefer and is still fighting for a grand bargain, but broke with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and other Democratic leaders in saying the automatic cuts known as sequestration would not be a failure.
“I’m not giving up a weekend just so I can watch sequestration take effect,” he said. “Most of us believe that the elements of a good solution are on the big table. [But] sequestration is a way to get us back on track.
Republicans are seen as less keen than Democrats to see the sequester go forward. It could lead to $600 billion in cuts to national security spending, while the same amount in domestic cuts would not include cuts to entitlement benefits.
A number of liberal groups are hoping the supercommittee fails, arguing that the sequester route is the better deal for the Democrats.
Becerra’s comments came as the GOP co-chairman of the supercommittee sought to strike a new tone of urgency Friday, saying panel members would work all weekend if necessary to make a deficit-cutting deal.
“We are painfully, painfully aware of the deadline that is staring us in the face,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).
Other supercommittee members also said the panel had not given up its goal of meeting a Nov. 23 deadline to reach a deal on at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts, though some indicated a bigger deal appeared unlikely.
The sense on Capitol Hill in recent days is that the 12 lawmakers on the panel have made little progress on such knotty issues as entitlements and taxes, and that talks had a surprising lack of urgency.
And with only one weekend left before the group’s deadline, there was even some doubt over whether at least one of the House Democrats on the panel, Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), would even be in Washington as talks continued. Asked if he’ll be here this weekend, Clyburn said, “I hope not.”
“I haven’t discussed [Clyburn’s] weekend plans,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), another supercommittee member. “But one thing I do know: He’ll be available for any discussions. All I can do is speak for myself. I’m going to be here.”
Becerra rejected the idea that there’s a lack of urgency surrounding the talks.
“I don’t know where you guys have been,” he said. “We’ve been put on call, and we’re available. I’m not going anywhere this weekend.”
Hensarling said members met Thursday night to discuss new ideas and would resume talks on Friday.
“Today, members of the Joint Select Committee — Republicans and Democrats — will again gather to try to find common ground,” Hensarling said. “If an agreement is not reached today between members of the Joint Select Committee, Democrats and Republicans will meet through the weekend.”
“I don’t know about tensions [rising],” Van Hollen said, after being asked if the stress level was increasing among supercommittee members. “But certainly as you get toward the midnight hour, the pressure goes up.”
In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Van Hollen said members were focused on getting the minimum $1.2 trillion deal and that a larger package would be “difficult.” He also highlighted the tiny window of time the members now have to come to an accord.
“By tonight, we really have to have most of whatever could be agreed to to the Congressional Budget Office,” Van Hollen said in the Bloomberg interview. “That can be amended over the weekend, but this is the 11th hour.”
After their caucus meeting, House Democratic leaders stressed that they did not wish to see the supercommittee fall short, saying the failure of the panel to reach a grand bargain, including huge investments in infrastructure spending, would be a missed opportunity to jumpstart the economy.
“I never see failure as the best option,” said Rep. John Larson (Conn.), chairman of the House Democratic caucus. “Democrats continue to believe that job creation is the best answer.”
Democrats also suggested that they would not consent to a deal just for a deal’s sake — especially if that pact were modeled after proposals already outlined by supercommittee Republicans.
Van Hollen also pushed back against suggestions from Republicans that the across-the-board cuts could be watered down if the supercommittee does not reach a deal.
“That’s just trying to re-engineer an agreement that has already been reached,” he said.
The major GOP supercommittee proposal, from Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.), would raise hundreds of billions of dollars in fresh revenues and entitlement cuts. But it would also permanently lock in the Bush-era tax cuts, and push to reduce rates even further.
By contrast, Democrats on the panel have said they will accept the amount of upfront revenues that Republicans have proposed, but only if they drop the demand to lock in the Bush-era tax cuts.
“Apparently, the Toomey proposal is a hedge fund manager sees his rate go down to 28, but a person who’s 63 doesn’t get Medicare,” said Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.). “That’s pretty outrageous. We’re not going to make a deal on those grounds.”
At Friday’s caucus meeting, Democrats said, members were given polling information that showed the American public wishes to protect entitlement programs.
“Overwhelmingly, everyone in America believes that cutting Social Security and Medicare is a really bad idea,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “That includes people who define themselves as fiscal conservatives, as Republicans, as independents.”