Supercommittee failure likely

Nov. 19, 2011 at 9:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. congressional supercommittee's likely failure to agree on deficit reduction is likely to set up another fiscal wrangle in Congress, lawmakers say.

The extension of unemployment benefits and payroll tax holiday are set to expire Dec. 31, The Washington Post reported. Tax breaks, including one that keeps millions of householders from paying the alternative minimum tax, also need to be reauthorized.

If everything is reauthorized, the total cost just for 2012 would come to almost $300 billion. While many lawmakers support all reauthorizations, they are also wary of making the deficit even bigger.

"If the supercommittee fails, I think there will be a stark realization by every member of the U.S. Senate that we're at the end of the year and these complex challenges have not been dealt with," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who sits on the Budget Committee, told the Post. "It's likely to be a really difficult period."

So far Republicans on the supercommittee have refused to consider tax increases.

Democrats rejected the latest proposal from GOP members of the supercommittee, which called for $600 billion in program cuts but only $3 billion in net new tax revenue from closing a loophole for corporate jet owners, The Hill reported.

"Do we look stupid?" Rep. James Clyburn, R-S.C., told The Hill after leaving a meeting with Democratic members of the panel. "I mean, I don't know, maybe we do. I certainly am not stupid."

The two sides face a deadline of midnight Monday to send a proposal to the Congressional Budget Office to be scored and must decide on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts by Wednesday to avoid automatic cuts to defense and discretionary domestic spending that would take effect in January 2013.

Members of the supercommittee said they would work through the weekend.

"We are painfully, painfully aware of the deadline that is staring us in the face," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the GOP co-chairman of the committee.

Republicans defended the latest offer, and The Washington Post noted many of its provisions had received bipartisan support in the summer.

"This was a balanced, bipartisan plan -- the fact that it was rejected makes it clear that Washington Democrats won't cut a dime in government spending without job-killing tax hikes," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.

But Democrats have balked at the lack of matching tax increases, the Post said.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said the proposal did not meet "any standard of common sense" because it wouldn't raise tax revenue from the wealthiest Americans.

"To have something on table that does not ask the wealthiest people in the country to share in it would be unconscionable. This is the divide right now. We're still working. I hope we can get there, but I don't know at this point," Kerry said.

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