Although the bipartisan “supercommittee” charged with forging a deficit-reduction plan has all but announced its failure, there is a last-minute effort by a few members of the group to salvage something – anything – to save face.
A bipartisan group – Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., John Kerry, R-Mass., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio. – is meeting in the Capitol.
Arriving to her office on Capitol Hill this morning, the Democratic co-chair declined to put the final nail in the coffin when asked whether the committee is officially dead.
“No, not yet,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. “We’re still talking and we’ll see what happens today, but the hours are short.”
Kerry and Kyl also spoke earlier this morning, aides confirm. And there has been the suggestion that additional meetings will take place throughout the day with different combinations of supercommittee members.
The time is short, with a self-imposed midnight deadline looming to make a deal and write the agreement to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit.
Absent any last-minute deals, the congressional super committee will issue a paper statement late this afternoon announcing its failure to reach a deal.
“I wouldn’t be optimistic,” Kyl said this morning on Fox News. “I don’t want to create any false hope here. … There will be an announcement by the two co-chairs towards the end of the day as to what the result was either way.”
Aides to the supercommittee members continue to half-heartedly insist that there are still conversations taking place at this late hour among members of the 12-person committee, but the prospects are grim and the senators look defeated. A paper statement will be released late this afternoon, likely after the markets close, by co-chairs Murray and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, announcing the committee is over.
“It’s disappointing,” Kyl said during an interview with CNN this morning.
Kyl had already announced his retirement earlier this year, and said this morning the outcome of the super committee is one of the biggest disappointments of his career.
Meanwhile, both parties have taken to the airwaves for damage control to fill the time today before their midnight deadline to write an agreement.
There were few members of the supercommittee even on the Hill this morning. The ones who were hit the cable outlets, pointing their fingers at the other party in the blame game that has already begun, while now speaking about the committee mostly in the past tense.
“This was Congress’ responsibility,” Sen. Kerry said on CNN this morning. “Frankly, the only reason we don’t have an agreement is not because we weren’t willing to make reductions to Medicare, health care, do things we needed to do to make the system stronger, to protect it going forward. The reason is we are stuck on this insistence of making the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. I think the American people will judge that to be insane.”
Sen. Kyl said on CNBC, “Our Democratic friends had a different idea. Their idea was this was the opportunity to raise taxes. And it didn’t matter what we proposed.”
Kyl said what most Republicans have been saying quietly throughout the whole process of the super committee that they believe there were “several incentives” for Democrats not to agree to a deal.
“They get to cut their favorite program, namely our national defense through the sequester program, namely our national defense though the sequester process,” Kyl said. “The president gets to keep his message that there is a dysfunctional Congress and, therefore, he has somebody to blame for the bad economy.”
And talk of overturning the sequester – the trigger of automatic across-the-board cuts – has already started.
“There will be opportunities to amend the effects of this across-the-board sequestration, on the defense side,” Kyl said on CNBC. “There will be efforts to find offsets or other ways to reduce spending so that those cuts in defense spending don’t occur.”