As President Obama tells Congress to “ bite the bullet” on an agreement to slash $1.5 trillion from the deficit over the next decade, less than 10 days remain for the so-called supercommittee to come to terms on a deal, and just about everyone is predicting it will fail.
Over the past year, the House Republican leadership has frequently used the metaphor of “three bites at the apple” to cut spending — the first nibble coming in the form of the continuing resolution, the second chomp at the FY2012 budget, and the third course trillions of dollars in deficit savings concocted in a deal to increase the debt limit.
But with the previous two bites of the pomaceous fruit fully digested and the committee’s Nov. 23 deadline less than 10 days away, the president prodded Congress to munch on something that’s potentially a little less healthy.
“My hope is that over the next several days, the congressional leadership on the super committee go ahead and bite the bullet and do what needs to be done because the math won’t change,” Obama said Sunday night during a news conference in Hawaii. “People keep on wanting to jigger the math so that they get a different outcome. Well, the equation, no matter how you do it, is going to be the same.”
When faced with the president’s latest rhetorical challenge, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor would not “opine” about whether bullets are more appetizing than apples, but he said he understood the pressure the committee faces, citing his experience during the deficit reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden earlier this year.
“I don’t want to be opining as to bullets or apples,” Cantor, R-Va., told reporters today. “I’m not going to opine about [the supercommittee's] work, about reported deals. Again, I served on the Biden talks. I know how difficult it is, and how much pressure they’re under.”
Cantor refused the ensuing onslaught of questions searching for a hint of progress in the negotiations, but he predicted the committee would meet its mandate on time.
“We’ve got to let them do their work,” he said. “I’m hopeful that there will be a good result come the Nov. 23 deadline.”
Meanwhile, that third apple might be beginning to rot. Congressional sources close to the negotiations maintain that “talks are ongoing” but refuse to characterize how close the 12-member panel is to coalescing around a consensus proposal.
CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl, who is following the Republican leader today around the Capitol for a “60 Minutes” profile set to air next month, asked Cantor whether he feels pressure from bankers and small businesses to cut a deal for fear of how failing would affect the financial markets.
“Everyone would like to see a more positive economic outlook, that’s for sure,” Cantor said. “Set reasonable expectations of things that we can accomplish together. … Stay away from the hyperbole and making promises that we can’t keep. Deliver on the statutory charge of at least $1.2 trillion so that we can continue back towards focusing on this economy.
“Everybody wants to see some results here in Washington. I mean, that’s where the frustration has become,” he added. “In the House, we want to try and work on things that all of us can agree on, set aside the differences, [and] put these bills across the floor that are focused on job creation and focused on helping small businesses, because that’s what it’s about.”