The full Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction hasn’t met to negotiate behind closed doors since last Monday — and for now, that’s OK with the panel’s Democrats, who are beginning to seek ways to blame potential failure on the GOP.
Democrats on the super committee have refused to meet with the full group again until Republicans come to the table with what they deem a more “serious” offer that includes revenue increases, according to sources close to the committee. And Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) declared Monday on TV that the panel is doomed to fail because Republicans refuse to raise taxes.
After a rough summer in which Democrats struggled to win the messaging war on deficit reduction, it appears they are now openly bracing for failure and trying to get ahead of Republicans in the blame game. But their maneuverings may also further complicate the stalled progress of the super committee two weeks before its deadline to produce a bill that shaves at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit.
Early Monday morning, Schumer said repeatedly that he believed the super committee would deadlock. Notably, he volunteered that analysis in an answer to a general question about which is better for reducing the deficit: raising taxes on the rich or closing loopholes in the tax code.
“I don’t think the super committee is going to succeed because our Republican colleagues have said no net revenues,” Schumer said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “You talk to the three people on our super committee on the Senate side, you talk to [Rep. Chris] Van Hollen [D-Md.], we’re willing to move to the middle.”
“They are not willing to do any revenues,” the New York Democrat continued. “The American people are beginning to sniff this. They’re beginning to sniff that the other side is sort of dug in and not compromising.”
Sources close to leadership and super committee Democrats said there was no direct coordination between Schumer and the Senate panel members — which includes committee Co-Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — about moving forward with the “failure” message. But they said discussions had taken place about attacking Republicans for what Democrats believe is an unworkable offering on revenues.
Although super committee Democrats publicly contend they are working toward a deal, aides noted that panel Democrats were not upset by Schumer’s comments. They characterized his assertions Monday as an extension of what Democrats have been saying for two weeks — that many Republicans are unwilling to move on taxes and that if they don’t, a deal will be out of reach.
Of course, Republicans are not thrilled with the picture Democrats are painting, and they appear to be fatigued by Democrats continuing to claim that Republicans are beholden to Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform and author of a no-tax-increases pledge signed by many GOP Members. And even some Democratic sources voiced private concern that pushing the “failure” narrative, as opposed to highlighting their policy priorities, makes the party appear to be rooting for deadlock.
GOP aides pushed back almost immediately on Schumer’s comments Monday by pointing to statements made this weekend by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who showed an openness to changing the tax code to bring in more revenues.
“I believe that if we restructure our tax code, where on the corporate side and the personal side, the target would be a top rate of 25 percent, it would make our economy more competitive with the rest of the world,” Boehner said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It would put Americans back to work. We’d have a broader base on the tax rules. And out of that, there would be real economic growth and more revenues for the federal government.”
Given the failure of previous deficit negotiations over taxes, Democrats worry whether Boehner’s positions are made in good faith. Boehner twice this summer walked away from talks with President Barack Obama over tax issues, but at one point, Obama and Boehner were talking about a deal that would have included nearly $800 billion in new revenue.
Additionally, Democrats say they have already seen the GOP panel members’ plan and were dismayed that it counted cuts to Medicare beneficiaries as part of its approximately $700 billion in new revenues. Democrats presented a $3 billion plan that would have had spending cuts roughly equal to new revenues.
Despite the larger impasse, individual Members of the bicameral, bipartisan super committee continue to meet one-on-one or in small groups to try to make headway in lieu of full-group meetings. Republican Members met in Co-Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Texas) office Monday afternoon, and one-on-one meetings between Members were scattered throughout the day.
Hensarling and Murray are also in daily contact, according to sources, discussing big-picture issues for the committee and continuing to push forward through the difficult terrain of taxes and entitlements.
The panel has until Nov. 23 to approve a final agreement, but it must have Congressional Budget Office scoring to do so. Members and staff have continuously been sending information to the nonpartisan office throughout the months-long negotiating process.