The Republican chairman of Congress’s bipartisan deficit reduction committee said Friday that he holds “high hopes and tempered expectations” for the group’s chances for meeting its legal mandate and coming up with a $1.2 trillion in cuts to the debt.
By all accounts, the powerful supercommittee is stalled as its Nov. 23 deadline for a deal approaches — with Democrats insisting Republicans agree to higher revenues in exchange for substantial cuts to entitlement programs, and Republicans refusing to back higher taxes.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday that he was nervous about the committee’s prospects for success, given the consequences for failure — an automatic $1.2 trillion cut that would be split evenly between security and non-security government functions. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have indicated they will seek to reverse the defense cuts if the supercommittee is not successful.
They sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Friday asking the Pentagon chief to outline the ways in which a $600 billion security cut could impact national security.
But Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) told reporters Friday morning that he had held an early morning meeting with his Democratic co-chair, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
“We continue to negotiate,” he said.
He said his own outlook at the process has not budged since it began in September — hoping for the best but expecting something less.
“I haven’t changed my position from day one: I approached this process with high hopes and tempered expectations and I continue to have high hopes and tempered expectations,” he said.
His comments came at a House GOP news event intended to keep pressure on Senate Democrats to take up 15 bills passed by the House that GOP leaders say would spur job growth. Dubbed the “forgotten 15” by House leaders, they include measures to roll back federal regulations, expand domestic energy production and cut government spending.
“There’s no reason — not one — that Democrats would delay action on these bills any longer,” Boehner. “The House has been working all year on our plan for America’s job creators. It’s time for the Senate to do their work.”
Later Friday, Senate leaders plan to introduce the latest piece of President Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan they will advance in the Senate — a tax credit for businesses that hire veterans. Senate Republicans blocked the package last month and have likewise opposed other pieces of the deal, in part because Democrats would fund them with a surtax on millionaires.