WASHINGTON -- In a sign of just how unlikely Congress' deficit-cutting super committee is to succeed, Republicans took the blame game to another level Tuesday, saying the White House wants it to fail.
As evidence, they pointed to recent remarks by New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who said Monday that the committee will fail because Republicans don't want to compromise on raising taxes.
"It's pretty clear when Chuck Schumer speaks, he's speaking for the most partisan Democratic positions," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "It does raise the suspicion that the folks down at the White House are pulling for failure, because you see if the Joint Committee [on Deficit Reduction] succeeds, it [upsets] the story line that they've been peddling, which is that you can't do anything with the Republicans in Congress."
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Schumer, said his boss's prediction had nothing to do with rooting for failure, but addressed the GOP's anti-tax orthodoxy.
"The obstacle for the super committee is Republicans' refusal to entertain serious revenues," said Fallon, arguing that Schumer's remarks "clearly struck a nerve with Republicans" because Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) offered what Democrats see as a token offer to raise revenue and show reasonableness.
The AP reported that Toomey's measure would cut tax rates from about 35 to 28 percent while closing loopholes to raise an extra $250 billion from individual tax returns. It would raise another $60 billion from reforming the corporate tax code and another $40 billion by changing the way inflation is measured.
Democrats see it as a phony offer because the lowering of tax rates overall would come at the expense of the middle and working classes, who would end up paying more when things like mortgage deductions were eliminated. Currently, about half of taxpayers pay no federal income tax, and half of American families earn less than $50,000. Half of workers earn less than $26,300. In order to raise the money Republicans are talking about, many of those people would have to pay more.
"A day later, they [Republicans] are scrambling to come up with face-saving offers that they claim include concessions," said Fallon. "They know the public will blame them alone if Congress misses this opportunity."
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found Americans would be more likely to blame the GOP if the super committee fails, by 46 to 36 percent, although the poll also found that voters favor spending cuts over tax hikes.
McConnell was hardly the only Republican to question Schumer's remarks.
"Last I saw, Sen. Schumer was not on the super committee. I think all three of the Senate Republicans are working really hard to make it work," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). "I think my side is increasingly concerned that the other side's decided it's strategically to their advantage for it not to work."
Blunt singled out what he said was a lack of effort by the White House. "I don't see any real push from the administration to encourage a successful negotiation in the super committee," he said. "My sense is they're certainly not getting the leadership from the administration that you'd want that committee to have."
"Everybody in America loses if they don't do something," said Sen Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). "To be out promoting the fact [that the committee could fail] is undermining the very thing that [Schumer] should be hoping that they do. So I think it's very ill-advised to be on the public stage now undermining what they're trying to do."
Democrats have argued often that Republicans are trying to kill everything in Congress to avoid helping the economy or give President Barack Obama any wins to tout in the campaign season.
The White House has been scoffing at charges that the president wants the super committee to fail and, in response to the latest, pointed to remarks from White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday. "I think to declare now that Congress will fail before it's had a chance to, I think, is not helpful," he said.
Carney also noted, "We believe that Congress has all it needs in terms of guidelines and outlines [on] the kind of policy decisions it needs to make at the committee level to do this." And he reminded reporters that the White House backed larger deficit reductions than those mandated to be made by the super committee: "There is an opportunity here to well overshoot the goal outlined by the legislation, in terms of long-term deficit and debt reduction, as the president's plan does. And we hope that Congress will take that up and do it."
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