With one weekend left for the super committee to strike a deal, the embattled panel members appear as far apart as ever, with no late-night Capitol meetings planned for tonight and Democrats not even scheduled to gather in person on Saturday.
The standstill ó despite insistence from Members all week that they would work around-the-clock until the deadline ó is indicative of both the seriousness of the impasse and the reality that any deal in the next two days likely will have to come with either the strong blessing of leadership or directly from leadership itself.
Earlier today, reports leaked that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rejected an informal $640 billion offer from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday. And at least one super committee member said that if the panel does not produce a deal, it will not be a failure.
The package Reid rejected included $316 billion in cuts, $98 billion in interest savings, $3 billion from eliminating tax breaks for corporate jets and a variety of other non-tax revenue. But it was summarily dismissed by Democrats both in leadership and on the super committee. Although the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction technically has until Wednesday to reach an agreement, the panel needs to submit a package to the Congressional Budget Office by Monday to have a cost estimate available by the Nov. 23 deadline.
Reid and Boehner met privately on Tuesday and have been in conversation throughout the week. The increased involvement from leadership is both a sign that panel talks are in trouble and that the leaders are committed to finding agreement, despite the wide policy divides.
"If this is their last, best and final offer, we are in real trouble," said a Democratic aide close to the committee. "Not only does [it] fall flat of meeting the committee's deficit reduction goal, it fails every test of balance."
The panel's goal is to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings and the Republican proposal would address a little more than half that amount.
Democrats are slated to hold a conference call on Saturday, and Republicans also have a 10 a.m. phone call scheduled.
Sources indicated that there likely would be little-to-no news from the panel until Sunday morning, when several Members are scheduled to appear on morning talk shows. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) are booked to debate the committee's progress on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) will be on CBS's "Face the Nation" and Co-Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is slated to appear on CNN's "State of the Union."
Following a mid-afternoon meeting of the six Democratic negotiators, Kerry dismissed Boehner's plan out of hand. "The idea of on Friday settling for half of what the American people need and what we were sent here to do is unacceptable to me," he said.