By Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — It's just about over for a special deficit-reduction supercommittee, which appears set to admit failure on Monday in its quest to sop up at least $1.2 trillion in government red ink over the coming decade.
The bipartisan 12-member panel is sputtering to a close after two months of talks in which key members and top congressional leaders never got close to bridging a fundamental divide over how much to raise taxes. The budget deficit has forced the government to borrow 36 cents of every dollar it spent last year.
In a series of television interviews, not a single panelist seemed optimistic Sunday about any last-minute breakthrough, and aides said any remaining talks had broken off.
The White House, however, continued to insist that lawmakers finish the task they were assigned.
"Avoiding accountability and kicking the can down the road is how Washington got into this deficit problem in the first place, so Congress needs to do its job here and make the kind of tough choices to live within its means that American families make every day," White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.Monday is deadline day. The panel officially has until Wednesday to approve a deficit-slashing plan, but under its rules, any plan would have to be unveiled 48 hours in advance.
Instead, it appeared co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas would issue a statement declaring the panel's work at an end, aides said.
The two sides had never gotten particularly close, at least in the official exchanges of offers that were leaked to the media.
"There is one sticking divide. And that's the issue of what I call shared sacrifice," said panel co-chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on CNN's "State of the Union."
"The wealthiest Americans who earn over a million a year have to share too. And that line in the sand, we haven't seen Republicans willing to cross yet," she said.
Republicans said Democrats' demands on taxes were simply too great and weren't accompanied by large enough proposals to curb the explosive growth of so-called entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
"If you look at the Democrats' position it was 'We have to raise taxes. We have to pass this jobs bill, which is another almost half-trillion dollars. And we're not excited about entitlement reform,' " countered Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona on NBC's "Meet the Press.""Put a bow on it. It's done," said an aide to a supercommittee Republican.
Failure by the panel would trigger about $1 trillion over nine years in automatic across-the-board spending cuts to a wide range of domestic programs and the Pentagon budget, starting in 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This action, called a "sequester," would also generate $169 billion in savings from lower interest costs on the national debt.