In a hastily called press conference in the hallway of the Cannon House Office Building today, Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, co-chairman of the debt-reduction supercommittee, said that although it seems that the panel is at an impasse, the members are still hard at work.
“Even though time continues to run off the clock, we are not giving up hope in reaching an agreement with the Democrats until the stroke of midnight on Nov. 23,” Hensarling told reporters.
But the rest of the picture wasn’t as rosy.
“There are still significant differences that still have to be resolved,” Hensarling said, adding that Republicans have made “considerable concessions” and Democrats so far have not responded, continuing to insist that tax increases be coupled with reforming health care programs.
“What we still haven’t seen from Democrats is the plan that deals with our structural debt crisis that actually solves the problem,” Hensarling added. “The drivers of our spending is Medicare, Medicaid and health care. Nothing else comes close. Unless we fundamentally address that, we will fail in our statutory duty.”
Both sides’ plans were rejected by the other and, as of now, no meetings have been scheduled for the full committee.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Democratic co-chairwoman of the committee, said today that the “strong views” of all the members have made the committee’s task “very challenging.”
“We are working very hard to bridge that gap,” Murray said today. “We’ve all been given an assignment that is very challenging. Everybody took that on; everyone has worked hard, every single day, every single minute, trying to be as creative as possible to bridge the divides.”
Murray said Democrats continue to stress that “whatever we end up with at the end of the day is balanced, is fair and has revenues, real revenues on the table.”
Each of the co-chairs’ comments come amid reports that the supercommittee is at an impasse, with some even suggesting that Democrats have stepped away from the negotiating table. The move today to publically declare that talks have not broken down show not only the pressure on the committee but also the need that they feel to pledge confidence with just 13 days to get a deal.
Hensarling said he understands that many Americans are “upset” that the 12-member committee has yet to reach a deal so close to the deadline.
“That adds even extra pressure for us to take care of this problem.” Hensarling said. “Believe you me, I’ve got the calendar.”