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Super Committee Stares Down Deadline

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Super committee Co-Chairman Sen. Patty Murray speaks to reporters today. The deficit panel has less than a week to agree on a plan but is deadlocked on taxes and entitlement spending.

Democrats on Friday accepted the basic targets of the GOP plan, with nearly $900 billion in spending reductions and $400 billion in revenues, but added several caveats. They asked that the Medicare retirement age remain the same; that the Bush-era tax cuts not be extended; that the chained Consumer Price Index be taken off the table; and that the panel consider certain provisions in Obama’s jobs package, like extending the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefits.

The Democratic position appeared to be a non-starter, and it was unclear today whether other plans had been exchanged. Republicans say they’re still waiting for a proposal that takes on serious structural reforms to entitlements.

“Well, we’re trying to figure out whether our Republican colleagues have drawn an absolute line in the sand with respect to their last proposal or whether they’re still willing to negotiate, and we believe we should not give up on negotiation,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said this afternoon. “We’re prepared to look for every option.”

The questions now are whether any option will be acceptable and whether leaders will force their contingents on the panel to take up what they think could clear both chambers.

Earlier today, Boehner told reporters that although he has had his “fair share of meetings” on the deficit talks, “the leaders have a responsibility” to ensure the process is successful.

His early morning optimism, however, was in contrast to the message coming from inside the negotiating room.

Super committee Co-Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray 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,” the Washington Democrat added. “Once they resolve that and are willing to compromise as we have, then we can reach a deal.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi 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,” the California Democrat 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,” he 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.

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