WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2011 -- Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., blamed the White House for a "lack of leadership" in steering the congressional supercommittee toward an agreement, saying political strategy and the hope of running against a "do-nothing Congress" is guiding the administration.
"I think it's very difficult for the Democrats on that committee to enter into a negotiation, not knowing where the White House is," Rubio told "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour. "They don't want to get their legs cut out underneath them as they agree to some entitlement reform measures that later on the White House decides they don't want to support in an election year."
"I hate questioning people's motives, but I do believe that there's political strategy involved here. And I certainly think the president would like to run against a do-nothing Congress," Rubio added. "But I hope that doesn't stand in the way of meaningful legislation, particularly out of the supercommittee."
Rubio voted against this summer's debt ceiling compromise and opposed the formation of the supercommittee. But he said he hopes it succeeds in the coming days "because so much is at stake."
"It would be an indictment on our political process and on the unwillingness of the political class in America to deal with these significant issues," Rubio said. "We need to look no further than Europe to understand what lies ahead unless we take these issues seriously."
However, Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., said that Republican failure to consider a balanced approach that includes significant revenue increases as well as budget cuts has blocked efforts at compromise.
"In my view, my party's the one that continually advocates for everything on the table, for a broad and balanced solution that includes revenue as well as considering entitlements," Coons said.
But Coons said he hopes that the two parties can still come together to make the necessary compromises to reach an agreement in order to prevent the threat of a further credit downgrade and to avoid a double-dip recession.
"I have to remain confident that there are folks in both parties who want to put Americans back to work, who want to deal with our deficit and who want to do it in a responsible way," Coons said. "And we have to look at a fiscal solution that will put everything on the table, that will get our economy moving again, and that'll put a floor under the real anxiety out there in the world."
"If it simply stays a zero-sum game, a fight between no defense cuts or no reforms to entitlement, no raising taxes or no increase in revenue through comprehensive tax reform, no investments that grow our economy, we will simply continue to sink as a country," Coons added.
'There Are Things We Can Work on Together'
As the congressional supercommittee stands on the brink of failure, Coons and Rubio are pushing forward with a rare bipartisan effort on jobs, hoping to spur action on measures that both Republicans and Democrats support.
The first-term senators have introduced the AGREE Act – the American Growth, Recovery, Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Act – putting together elements from existing jobs bills that have gained bipartisan support, hoping that passage of the economic measures will spur confidence in Washington.
"We believe that one of the things that's holding back economic activity is all the bad news and impending bad news that's coming out of Washington," Rubio said. "If we can show people that there are things we can work on together, that there is a glimmer of hope in Washington, that we are able to agree on the things we agree on, we hope to be able to get the ball rolling on a little bit of confidence over the next 12 months."
While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been criticized for not taking action on jobs bills supported by Republicans, Coons said their effort has received "very positive responses from folks in leadership, from the White House" and from Senate colleagues.
"I think this is a balanced, bipartisan, constructive package of ideas that can help move the economy forward," Coons said. "And I'm confident that Leader Reid wants to make whatever progress we can in moving legislation that will help create jobs."
"Our point is that there is no reason for this not to pass," Rubio added. "We can't sit around for 12 months and do nothing… If something like this can't get traction, if something like this can't pass, what does it say about our process?"