As widely expected, the congressional “supercommittee” charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction measures said Monday that it was unable to reach an agreement in time for its November 23 deadline.
The 12-member committee of Democrats and Republicans from both chambers of Congress had all but stopped meeting in recent days. The two parties blamed one another on the Sunday talk shows for being unable to agree to a compromise on either tax increases or spending cuts.
On Monday, the two co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., released the following statement:
“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline. Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve. We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.
“We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable to come to a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement, but as we approach the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to express our appreciation to every member of this committee, each of whom came into the process committed to achieving a solution that has eluded many groups before us,” they added. “Most importantly, we want to thank the American people for sharing thoughts and ideas and for providing support and good will as we worked to accomplish this difficult task.”
The supercommittee came together as a result of the debt ceiling showdown over the summer in which the federal government came close to a shutdown. The White House and Congress agreed to set up the supercommittee as a way to produce at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction measures over 10 years on top of the amount agreed to in the debt ceiling deal. The recommendations of the supercommittee were supposed to go to Congress for an up or down vote with no amendments allowed. If they were unable to come to a deal by November 23, as has now happened, automatic spending cuts will now be triggered starting in 2013, equally divided between defense and discretionary spending programs.
However, efforts are already underway in Congress to forestall some of those cuts, which are estimated to affect about 10 percent of the Defense Department’s budget in 2013. Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday they would introduce legislation to soften the blow on the defense budget.
Meanwhile, Congress is expected to continue its efforts at tax reform. Republicans on the committee had proposed lowering the top tax rate from 35 to 28 percent in exchange for eliminating or limiting many popular deductions such as for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. Democrats countered that the tax burden would fall more heavily on the middle class as a result of the changes and balked at demands for steep cuts in entitlement programs in exchange for relatively modest concessions on tax revenues.