With less than two weeks left for the super committee to find a deal and with no compromise in sight, Democrats say they’re waiting for Republicans while Republicans say they’re waiting for Democrats, but everyone might be waiting for Godot.
Multiple bipartisan negotiating efforts — from Vice President Joseph Biden’s group and the Senate’s “gang of six” to talks between President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the president’s deficit commission — have failed to resolve the fundamental impasse over whether and how to tackle taxes and entitlements. And unless the situation changes soon, despite tempered optimism from some lawmakers outside the room, it appears the super committee may be destined to retell the story of the famous play in which two men futilely wait for someone to appear.
The already delicate, against-the-odds talks hit a low Wednesday, just a day after Republicans made a revised $1.2 trillion offer that included $250 billion to $300 billion in tax revenues and $700 billion in cuts. A smaller group of seven super committee members who met Monday night — before the GOP leaked the plan — met again Tuesday night, according to sources familiar with the talks, but the session was marked by frustration and ended in doubt over whether the group would reconvene anytime soon. At the Monday meeting, Democrats offered a revised plan of their own: a $2.3 trillion package composed of $1 trillion in revenue, $1 trillion in cuts and $300 billion in interest savings.
Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) huddled Tuesday night with Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) — as they have been regularly for weeks — to talk about ways to include new revenues. But sources indicate the divisions on taxes, and the amount of tax revenue required to reach a deal, have not been bridged. That Democrats came out against the Toomey plan so vocally Tuesday afternoon, especially considering how tight-lipped participants in the negotiations have been to date, did not help the negotiating process, sources indicated.
As of Wednesday night, super committee Co-Chairmen Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had not spoken since Monday, according to Democratic and Republican sources. But some sources insisted such a gap in communication so close to the Nov. 23 deadline should not be considered serious and that the relationship between the two remains good.
Super committee Republicans and Democrats met separately Wednesday, shoring up their positions as the panel digs in for its final two weeks of work. The full committee has not met behind closed doors since last Monday, and there were no plans as of Wednesday evening for the full group to meet this week.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.