Democrats and Republicans continued their increasingly bitter war of words over bipartisan deficit reduction talks today as the time for leaders to salvage the process runs perilously short.
With the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction's work essentially stalled and a Wednesday deadline approaching, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that while “I’ve had my fair share of meetings” on the deficit talks, he acknowledged that “the leaders have a responsibility” to ensure the process is successful.
But this morning, at least, partisanship seemed to be the order of the day for Democrats and Republicans alike.
Super committee Co-Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) insisted that Democrats had offered a counterproposal to a GOP plan from last week and that any final deal must be “fair to working families and puts our country back to work — that’s the task that we have at hand.”
“I would hope that [there] is a way for [Republicans] to understand that they need to compromise, too, and come back to us and reach a deal, which is critically important today. But I think the challenge is that they have to resolve the differences on their side on revenue. And that’s what we’re waiting for,” Murray said. “Once they resolve that and are willing to compromise as we have, then we can reach a deal.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed. “If you refuse to take one red cent from the wealthiest people from our country and the price we have to pay is the diminished strength of the people of our country ... that just isn’t right,” she said.
Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Boehner.
“There’s been exactly one proposal on the table, in the committee, and that came from the six Republican members,” Boehner said, dismissing Murray’s counteroffer as merely one from members’ “individual” discussions.
“It is very clear to me there has not been one Democrat position. Not one,” he added.
If the sniping sounds familiar, it should: Over the past 10 months, Congressional leaders have fallen into a predictable pattern during tense policy debates. Whether it was the spring continuing resolution fight, this summer’s debt ceiling battle or the super committee negotiations, Democrats and Republicans have started their work behind closed doors, spending weeks working out deals on areas where the two sides are close.
As discussions move into thornier policy issues, the two sides have tended to step up leaks to the media and complaints about the other side being obstinate. Then, as the negotiations near deadlines, the two sides erupt into all-out partisan warfare.
So far the script appears to be holding firm, with Boehner accusing Democrats and the White House of not giving Republicans a concrete proposal, and Democratic leaders — such as Murray — charging Republicans with protecting the rich and punishing the elderly and poor.
At some point, someone will likely be accused of walking away.
In previous fights this year, Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have, at the last minute, cobbled together an agreement to avoid failure. But whether the pattern will repeat itself this time is an open question.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. The problem we’ve had all year is getting to yes,” Boehner said today.