Supercommittee Members Say There Is Still Hope for Debt Deal

The Joint-Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or “supercommittee,” appears on the verge of failure in its mission to reduce future deficits by at least $1.2 trillion. In Sunday interviews, members of the supercommittee each blamed the members of the opposing party for failures to reach an agreement, but expressed hope that a deal would yet be reached before the Wednesday deadline.

“Nobody wants to give up hope,” supercommittee co-chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said on “Fox News Sunday,” but, “reality is starting to overtake hope.”

Democrats are blaming Republicans for refusing to support tax increases. Republicans are blaming Democrats for refusing to support entitlement reform without tax increases.

“Even the president admits the biggest drivers of our debt are Medicare, Medicaid and health care, nothing else comes close, and he's right,” Hensarling said. “I give him an A in courage for stating that. But unfortunately what we haven't seen in these talks from the other side is any Democrat willing to put a proposal on the table that actually solves the problem.”

Hensarling also argued that Republicans have given ground on revenue increases when Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) put forth a proposal that would increase revenue by $250 billion over current tax rates.

“Republicans put forth the plan that was in our budget, it was rejected by Democrats. We then gave them a bipartisan plan, the Rivlin-Domenici health care plan, which was principally drafted by a Democrat, Alice Rivlin, who was the director of Office of Management and Budget for the Clinton administration. That was rejected too,” Hensarling said.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said, also on “Fox News Sunday,” that it was “not the case” that Democrats have refused to reform entitlements, including increasing the age of eligibility for Medicare and lowering the COLA, or rate of growth for benefits, for Social Security, “but it all depends on if it is a balanced package.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said on NBC's “Meet the Press” that “Democrats put a four trillion dollar deal on the table and it included huge, hard, tough, horrible reductions on the sacred cows and things that we have been accused of not being willing to do.”

The Democratic offer would have raised $1.2 trillion in new revenue, which was rejected by Republicans.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Nev.) said on “Meet the Press” that Republicans offered a bill that would get the supercommittee halfway toward its goal, but it was rejected by Democrats.

“We have not been able to do entitlement reform or tax reform. And so Republicans said let's see if we can salvage something here. Let's see if we can take the areas where we have at least had some agreement in our meetings, put those together, and it adds up to about $640 billion that we could actually save in increased costs or in some cases, derive some revenue from asset sales and that sort of thing. Our Democratic friends said 'no' to that offer because it didn't raise taxes, and I think it tells you a lot, and, that is, in Washington there is a group of folks that will not cut a dollar unless we also raise taxes.”

Kyl also accused Democrats of not budging from their position as, he argued, Republicans have done with the Toomey proposal.

“Nothing new came out of this from the Democratic side. It was simply raise taxes, pass the president's jobs bill, no entitlement reform. On the Republican side, you had the one true breakthrough and that was this new concept of tax reform that could generate revenue from the upper brackets for deficit reduction.”

Kerry said it was “patently not true” that Democrats have refused to cut without raising taxes.

“We just cut $917 billion without one dime of new revenue. He knows it, we just did it. We cut $550 billion in the healthcare act, for medicare, we didn't raise ….”

The $917 billion in cuts was in the deficit reduction bill that also raised the nation's debt ceiling. Kerry did not finish his sentence regarding the $550 billion in Medicare cuts, maybe because he remembered mid-sentence that there were tax increases in the 2009 healthcare law.

When asked why he would put additional revenues on the table, when the prospect is anathema to many Republicans, Toomey, on CBS' “Face the Nation,” said, “If we both went into our respective foxholes and weren't willing to consider the other side, we surely were not going to get an agreement.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is not on the supercommittee, but has joined a growing cadre of, now 140 or so, members of both houses on Congress that is asking the supercommittee to “go big” and craft a $4 trillion deficit reduction. In a “Face the Nation” interview, he said that if the supercommittee fails, his group will step in to try to accomplish the task.

“If they can't get to a deal, they're gonna have to step aside and hopefully there will be enough of us stepping forward to basically re-introduce the Bowles-Simpson [$4 trillion] plan.”

When asked about Congress' low approval rating, Manchin said, “I'm ashamed. I have to go back and apologize for what we're doing.”

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