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Posted at 02:50 PM ET, 11/21/2011

Despite last-minute huddles, supercommittee appears headed toward failure

This post has been updated.

With less than 10 hours remaining until their deadline to reach a deal, members of the special debt supercommittee emerged from a bipartisan meeting at the Capitol on Monday afternoon with few indications that they had made any headway.

“We’re just having last-minute discussions,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told reporters as he exited Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) office after a meeting that lasted several hours. “We’re still talking about different ideas; that’s what we were doing.”

Huddling in Kerry’s office were seven members of the 12-member committee: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the panel’s co-chair; Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.); Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.); Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.); Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio); Van Hollen and Kerry.

The Republican members left the bipartisan meeting earlier Monday afternoon to gather in Portman’s office. Several of the panel’s Democrats lingered for a while longer before leaving Kerry’s office.

“We’re still talking,” Murray told reporters as she exited the office ahead of Van Hollen. She declined to answer when reporters asked whether she had any hope of an 11th-hour deal.

Aides Monday morning had said that Murray and her fellow co-chair, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), were planning on announcing the panel’s failure in a press release after the financial markets close.

Van Hollen said he believed a statement from the co-chairs was still in the works, although he did not know whether it would be made in person.

“I think at the end that the co-chairs will make a statement one way or another,” he said.

The strain of the panel’s inability to reach a deal appeared to be wearing on members Monday afternoon. Baucus told reporters that lawmakers were feeling “angst” at the fact that negotiations were going down to the wire.

If the bipartisan panel fails to reach a deal by midnight, the government will face an across-the-board $1.2 trillion cut to defense and non-defense spending in 2013, as mandated by the August debt-ceiling legislation. Even so, a growing number of GOP lawmakers now insist they will seek to undo the cuts to defense spending -- a move that many Democrats and the White House have said they will oppose.

While the country is likely to see at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings regardless of the committee’s outcome, the stakes for Congress’s standing in the public eye are high. Recent polls show public approval of Congress at an all-time low of nine percent, a figure that does not look likely to improve if the supercommittee deadlocks.

Republicans said late Monday afternoon that Kerry’s last-minute proposal lacked the unanimous support of the supercommittee Democrats at the huddle.

Asked where the negotiations stood, Kerry declined to go into detail with reporters on his way into and out of his office.

“We’re just continuing discussions in good faith, I hope, and we’ll see where we are,” he said.

“What do you have to say to the American people that are watching and looking at this committee about to fail?” one reporter asked.

“Well, that’s your presumption,” Kerry responded as he entered his office. “We’ll see what happens.”

Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.

By  |  02:50 PM ET, 11/21/2011

 
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