Both Democratic and Republican members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction huddled privately today, but the whole 12-member supercommittee has not sat down together in weeks and the group, with each passing moment, appears to be hurtling toward a potential super failure.
Both sides claim they have gone as far as possible and called on each other to make further concessions.
Democratic co-chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., insisted today that all Democratic members on the committee are in line with each other and that they would accept the Republicans’ offer, as authored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., with a few tweaks.
“We have met their offer on revenue,” Murray said after leaving a meeting with her Democratic committee colleagues. “But we have said it has to be fair to the American people and done in a way that doesn’t put the burden on working families and addresses the issues of getting people back to work. We are waiting for them to accept that.”
The Toomey plan would raise federal tax revenue by about $250 billion over the next decade by limiting tax breaks like mortgage interest deductions for Americans in return for lower income tax rates. The plan extends the Bush-era tax rates, which were extended by President Obama last year but are once again set to expire at the end of next year. The plan proposes $876 billion in total spending reductions, including $275 billion in health entitlement savings.
Democrats say they are willing to accept those revenue numbers but they insist on a few changes, namely that the plan must allow the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of 2012. The Democrats also say there can be no increase in the Medicare retirement age and that the agreement could not include a chained Consumer Price Index — which could cut hundreds of thousands from Social Security benefits. Finally, Democrats say the deal must make a “real investment” into job creation.
Republicans on the committee have resisted the purportedly tweaked Democratic counter proposal, denying a new Democratic offer even exists at all. Instead, the GOP members say they are waiting on the Democrats to come up with a genuine counter-offer.
“There was a piece of paper exchanged between a couple of the people, but it is not a new offer in the sense of meeting our ‘tax number,’” said Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. “The piece of paper you’re talking about presumed that the current policy, which is that the ’01/’03 tax rates that have been in existence for a decade will continue to be in existence. [Democrats] assume that not to be the case. So it is not $400 trillion, but rather $400 [trillion-plus] whatever will happen in January of 2013.”
Murray said that Democrats believe they have “opened a door to negotiations in these last final hours,” by agreeing to the Toomey plan. She said it is up to Republicans to “come to an agreement on their side on revenue” to be able to move forward.
“The productive conversation has to be on their side now to resolve the difference on where they are, whether or not to put real revenue on the table. And once they resolve that and are willing to compromise as we have, then we can reach a deal,” Murray said this afternoon. “My hope is that will happen today.”
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, said he has not seen or reviewed the Murray’s suggestion, but he’s “looking forward to doing that.”
”She said that she met some of our principles, and if that’s the case it’s worth taking a strong look at,” said Camp.
Rep. Fred Upton, the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, said he too has not heard what Murray said, but he said that members of the committee “are still talking and listening.”
With six days left until the committee’s Nov. 23 deadline and no deal in sight, about the only thing members of the supercommittee seem to agree on around the Capitol is that time is running short.
“We don’t have much time,” Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said as he breezed past reporters to enter a private meeting with his colleagues.
”Time is running out,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., echoed.