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 group of seven members of the supercommittee held a three hour meeting in the office of Sen. John Kerry’s office. After the meeting Republicans and Democrats leaving the meeting continued to insist this is a sign the committee is still working and have not given up yet, even though the clock is ticking toward their midnight deadline.
Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., suggested there is a new tax plan on the table that the group has been discussing as a possible last-minute way forward.
“There’s a new idea, which confirms my point, we’re continue to meet, there are nuisances,” Baucus said leaving the meeting, “Both sides are feeling angst and greater angst at the possibility of no agreement so we are working harder and more creatively to see what can be accomplished. And that’s happening on both sides.”
But an aide with knowledge of the discussions says to not read too much into the idea of a new plan saving the day just yet.
“Though talks continue, there is no sense of progress. The Republicans are simply not budging and this appears to be going nowhere,” a Democratic aide said following the meeting.
“We’re still talking,” Democratic co-chair Murray, D-Wash., said leaving the meeting.
The fact that there were seven members of the 12-member supercommittee in the bipartiisian meeting today should not be overlooked; seven votes is what any plan needs in the committee to get an agreement.
Republicans, including Kyl, Portman and Upton are now meeting now separately in Senator Portman’s office.
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.”
But 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.”
A paper statement could 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.”