Hensarling says GOP ‘Waiting for Democrats’ to Produce Super Counteroffer

As the bipartisan  Super Committee charged with forming a deficit reduction plan struggles to find a path toward a deal, the GOP co-chair of the 12-member panel says that he will not negotiate against himself and that Republicans are “waiting for Democrats to put fundamental reform on the table” ahead of next Wednesday’s deadline.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling said he believes Democrats “have negotiated in good faith” but so far they have not produced a plan that fundamentally addresses the major drivers of the debt: Medicare, Medicaid and health care.

“Republicans put a plan on the table that solved the problem,” Hensarling, R-Texas, said. “They rejected it and we said, ‘O.K., if you don’t like our plan, how about a bipartisan plan?’ We would be willing to negotiate around the Rivlin-Domenici Medicare plan. It’s not our version, it’s a bipartisan version. That’s something maybe we could meet on [but] we haven’t seen that.”

That plan, proposed by an earlier bipartisan deficit reduction committee headed by former White House budget director Alice Rivlin, D.,  and former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R.,  would maintain Medicare but cap growth and introduce a market-based approach option.

Hensarling, a five-term lawmaker, said that Republicans have “multiple offers on the table,” but they are “still waiting for Democrats to actually solve the problem, put something on the table.”

“If you don’t like the Republican plan, if you don’t like the Rivlin-Domenici bipartisan plan, what is your plan to solve the crisis ?” Hensarling asked rhetorically. ”We continue to meet, we continue to negotiate, but in the back of our minds we know the stroke of midnight is coming soon.”

Earlier today, some Democrats on the committee suggested Hensarling’s steadfast resistance to additional revenues is not helpful to the negotiations.

“I think when people go public and say what they’re willing or not willing to do, it isn’t as helpful as sitting at a table and trying to work through these things,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said. “I don’t think it’s helpful. I think what we need to do is sit down with each other and make choices.”

“I hope that they have not walked away,” Sen. Patty Murray, the Democratic co-chair, said. “We are working very hard to find a place that we can move forward on, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Later, when asked whether Republicans would consider moving beyond their offer for $250 billion in static tax revenue, Hensarling said he was “willing to look at any [Democratic] offer.”

“I’ve been awaiting since mid-August an offer that actually reforms our entitlement spending and solves our problem,” he said. “I’m still looking forward to that, and should that come, I would be more than happy to negotiate around that offer. I look forward to it.”

Hensarling reminded reporters that the committee must get a proposal to the Congressional Budget Office by 48 hours ahead of its Nov. 23 deadline to pass a deal, but he was adamant that the next move is up to the Democrats.

Dozens of House and Senate Republicans and Democrats banded together earlier today to urge the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to “go big” and seek a deal with a minimum of $4 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade.

“As I’ve said throughout this process, I’m not giving up hope until that stroke of midnight,” Hensarling, R-Texas, said. “We’re not changing that offer that’s on the table.”

Hensarling recounted his “gracious” conversation over the weekend with President Obama, reiterating that he asked the president to lift what he considers a veto threat against any product of the committee that does not match new tax revenue with entitlement reform.

“His veto threat has been widely interpreted to me that there can be no reforms of our unsustainable Medicare and healthcare spending unless attached to a $1 trillion tax increase that we believe fundamentally would make the job crisis even worse,” Hensarling said. “As I indicated to the president, if that was not indeed his wishes, then he should either clarify that veto threat or withdraw that veto threat. That is something that could be very helpful that the president could do to these negotiations.”