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Deficit Deal Impasse Threatens Key Initiatives

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Sen. John Kerry, a member of the super committee, talks with the media Thursday. He was one of the few panel members to come to the Capitol over the weekend to work on a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit despite a looming Wednesday deadline.

According to sources familiar with negotiations, Democrats would not accept the $643 billion package unless it also included about $150 billion to $200 billion in tax-based revenue, which was a non-starter for the GOP. The point of the more modest package, Republican aides said, was that neither party’s sacred cows, taxes for the GOP and entitlements for Democrats, would be significantly affected. There were a few other revenue ideas on the table, including a gas tax break, but Republicans said they could not move as far as Democrats wanted.

Co-Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling was especially downtrodden in reviewing the committee’s work and the effect its failure could have on the economy.

“I would hope there wouldn’t be again an adverse impact in the sense that the American people are still going to get the deficit reduction that was contemplated under the law. But it is a huge blown opportunity,” the Texas Republican said on “Fox News Sunday,” referring to the panel as if it were already dead. “It wasn’t so much of a failure as it was a failure to seize an opportunity. And if it’s not this opportunity, this nation better seize another one or we will be in economic trouble.”

The co-chairmen will have to announce a public hearing by Monday if they are to take even symbolic votes on a plan, or even competing proposals, by the panel’s Wednesday deadline. Monday also would be the last day the panel could receive a score from the Congressional Budget Office to enable those final votes.

If the committee fails, Congress still has more than a year to find an alternative to broad, automatic cuts.

“If the super committee can’t do it, then I hope that Congress will,” Co-Chairman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said on CNN on Sunday. “We have to keep working on it, and I’m going to keep working on it.”

Correction: Nov. 20, 2011

An earlier version of this story misstated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's title.

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