Supercommittee Making Little Progress, Lawmakers Warn
Democrats and Republicans on the congressional supercommittee tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in federal savings are still far apart on a number of key issues just 10 days before their final recommendation is due, lawmakers warned on Sunday.
"It's been a rollercoaster ride," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), co-chairman of the supercommittee, on CNN's "State of the Union." "We haven't given up hope, but if this was easy, the President and the Speaker of the House would have gotten it done themselves."
"I think we’ve got a ways to go," Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), who offered Democrats a deal last week that would raise $600 billion in revenue, told Fox News Sunday. "But I hope we can close that gap very quickly."
Toomey said supercommittee negotiations have reached a "difficult point," because Republicans are focusing on cutting entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, while Democrats would prefer to increase new revenue through tax increases on the wealthy. Republicans have offered a plan that includes half a trillion dollars in tax revenues, but Democrats are asking for more.
"We believe that increasing tax revenues could hurt the economy," Hensarling said.
If the bipartisan supercommittee fails to come up with a deal by midnight on November 23, $1.2 trillion in spending cuts will automatically go into effect -- but lawmakers worry that it's not enough.
"If they only do the 1.2 trillion, we're gonna have start over as soon as that's passed and find another 3 or 4 trillion dollars just to buy us five years and the time to work out our problems," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate's "Gang of Six" that offered an $8 trillion deficit reduction package, on "State of the Union."
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he is "rooting for" for the supercommittee right now, because the stakes are high for the U.S. economy if Congress is unable to come up with a big enough cut.
"We really need to be shooting for more like a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan," he said on CNN. "If there's one thing we've seen from the last few months in Europe, it's when you take these incremental steps, the market comes back and burns you time and again. At some point, we're gonna face the same abyss the Greeks faced and now the Italians are facing, and I believe we need to get ahead of it."
Warner said the only way the supercommittee is going to come up with a deal in time is if Democrats and Republicans put aside their political motivations and meet square in the middle.
"We've gotta be willing to make some folks mad on both ends of the political extreme," he said.