Debt deal prospects sour amid partisan wrangling
Fanning out to the sets of the Sunday morning talk shows, Democrats and Republicans on the deficit-cutting "super committee" blamed each other for a deepening impasse that has all but doomed chances for an accord.
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Panel members say they will be available for further talks Sunday in hopes of a final breakthrough and some last-minute offers on smaller deficit-cutting packages were possible. Also on the agenda is stage managing the group's disbandment.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Who's who on the US deficit super committee
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The most likely outcome, aides said, would be a joint statement by Murray and Hensarling. He said it would not be "useful" to have a public session in which both sides would vote each other's plans down.
Over the past couple of weeks, the two sides have made a variety of offers and counter-offers, starting with a more than $3 trillion plan from Democrats that would have increased tax revenues by $1.3 trillion in exchange for further cuts in agency budgets, a change in the measure used to calculate cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries, and curbs on the growth of Medicare and Medicaid.
Republicans countered with a $1.5 trillion plan that included a potential breakthrough – $250 billion in higher taxes gleaned as Congress passes a future tax reform measure. The plan was trashed by Democrats, however, who said it would have lowered tax rates for the wealthy too far while eliminating tax breaks that chiefly benefit the middle class.
Most recently, Republicans forwarded a smaller, face-saving $644 billion offer comprised of $543 billion in spending cuts, fees and other non-tax revenue, as well as $3 billion in revenue from closing a special tax break for corporate purchases of private jets. It also assumed $98 billion in reduced interest costs.
Officials familiar with the offer said it would save the government $121 billion by requiring federal civilian workers to contribute more to their pension plans, shave $23 billion from farm and nutrition programs, and generate $15 billion from new auctions of broadcast spectrum to wireless companies.
Democrats said the plan was unbalanced because it included barely any tax revenue.
"Our Democratic friends are unable to cut even a dollar in spending without saying it has to be accompanied by tax increases," Kyl said.
"We are unaware of any Democrat offer that didn't include at least $1 trillion tax increase on the American economy," Hensarling said.
Failure to reach agreement would trigger automatic across-the-board spending cuts to a wide variety of domestic programs and the Pentagon budget, starting in January of 2013. But both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and many lawmakers say this automatic sequester would impose devastating cuts at the Pentagon.
"I hope it will be changed," Hensarling said. "Panetta said that cuts of that magnitude would hollow out our national defense."
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