Supercommittee Hopes Dim as Deadline Approaches

Monday, 14 Nov 2011 11:49 AM

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With the Thanksgiving deadline just 10 days away, members of the congressional supercommittee are beginning to doubt that they will be able to reach agreement on cutting $1.2 trillion from the budget.

Committee members are being pressured from the right and the left — and fears have arisen that, even if a deal is reached, it will fail in the House or the Senate, The Washington Post reported.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, co-chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, said on CNN Sunday that “it’s been a roller-coaster ride. We haven’t given up hope. But if this was easy, the president of the United States and the speaker of the House would have gotten it done themselves.”

Nonetheless, there has been progress. The GOP has come up with a plan to cut $1.2 trillion that mostly relies on budget cuts but includes about $300 billion in new taxes, while the Democrats have presented a plan to cut the deficit by about $2 trillion, evenly divided between cuts and new taxes.

However, the panel’s progress has created problems in the rank and file of both parties. Liberals, labor leaders, and the AARP have come out against cuts to Medicare and Social Security spending and are threatening to vote against those who support them.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has said he is “very uncomfortable” with the GOP offer, and a number of House GOP members oppose higher taxes.
“A tax increase would be disastrous for Republicans at any time, but particularly going into 2012,” Tim Phillips, president of the tea-party-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, told the Post. “To vote for a tax increase — something that drives up revenue — a lot of people will say, ‘We’re washing our hands of these guys.’ ”

Failure to reach a deal or to have that deal killed in the House or Senate could send the economy into a tailspin, analysts told the Post, with another credit downgrade and damage to business and consumer confidence likely. Should deal making fail, the legislation setting up the supercommittee provide for automatic cuts that include almost $55 billion from the Pentagon, $11 billion from Medicare providers, and $38 billion from federal agencies that could spark mass government layoffs. Such prospects are so alarming that there is already talk of disabling the trigger in Congress.

President Barack Obama has said he would oppose attempts to turn off the trigger. Hensarling said he is “committed to ensuring that . . . America gets that $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction,” the Post reported.

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