Debt ‘Headlock’: Reid Rules Out Undoing Automatic Cuts

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid  was pessimistic that the 12-member Super Committee, which he said is currently in a “headlock,” would be able to broker a bipartisan deficit reduction deal by next Wednesday. But he rejected calls to bypass painful spending cuts that would result if no deal is reached.

“So far, I’ve not seen indication the Republicans are willing to agree to this balanced approach,” a grim Reid said. “If the committee fails to act, sequestration is going to go forward.”

Sequestration is the process by which across-the-board cuts in government spending would enacted starting in the 2013 spending year. The cuts will automatically kick in if the Super Committee cannot reach a deal to reduce the deficit by between $1.2 trillion.

In the face of a stalemate of the committee, some members of Congress have suggested that Congress could move to bypass the automatic spending cuts as a way to avoid the devastating automatic spending cuts to defense and non-defense spending that would take place in 2013.

But for the first time today, Reid said that he would not vote for anything that attempts to undo the automatic cuts.

“Those who are — who talk about retracting the sequester are wrong, are not living up to the agreement we reached to cut our nation’s deficit last July,” Reid said, “I would not vote to undo the sequester.”

While not specifically answering if he would vote for or against undoing the sequester, if it got to that point, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY., said the committee has got to get a result now.

“My view is that failure is not an option,” said Senate Mi9nority Leader Mitch McConnell. “The American people need an outcome, they expect an outcome, they deserve an outcome. And I expect to get one.”

Republicans on the Supercommittee floated their proposal for a plan, which would raise federal tax revenue by about $300 billion over the next ten years by limiting tax breaks like mortgage interest deductions for Americans in return for lower income tax rates, last week. But today, Reid said that he does not know what the Republican proposal really is, and suggested that the best thing for the Republican party could do to get a deal would be to “impeach Grover Norquist,” tying Republicans hands from negotiating on taxes.

“The proposal that’s been laid on the table by the Republicans on the Joint Select Committee has not been countered for over a week,” McConnell replied today, “We’re still waiting for what the Democrats might be willing to do. It’s been a long week, waiting for a counter-proposal.”

Democrats, for their part, have suggested a plan that was rejected by the Republicans.

The whole idea of the Super Committee was first proposed by Reid. Asked now if he regrets the formation of the committee, Reid seemed to indicate this wasn’t quite what he had envisioned, even though he added that he has no regrets about the committee’s formation.

“What I’d hoped is that because we have an obligation to do something about the debt, I was hoping that there would be a lot of hold — hand-holding and hugs and pats on the back and we’d be headed home for Thanksgiving,” Reid said, “But at this stage we’ve seen a few arm locks and a few whatever you call it when you put some — you know, lock somebody around the neck. Headlock, that’s what it is.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio met today with Reid to discuss the Super Committee but the meeting was not meant to signal that a final deal is in the works.

Reid described the meeting as “nonsubstantive,” adding, “I don’t think there’s anything to kick up to the leadership level until there’s something that we can take a look at. There’s nothing to look at this stage, at least as far as I know.”