Democrats said the tax increases in the GOP offer would be dwarfed by major new tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest households, including a reduction in the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent.
“They’re anxious to promote a certain concept with all of you,” Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), one of the negotiators, told reporters. “I’ll be very clear that whatever they put there doesn’t get the job done.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fired back that Republicans are “working diligently to get a solution” and accused Democrats of trying to block a deal. McConnell said he suspected that “the folks down at the White House are pulling for failure because, you see, if the joint committee succeeds, it steps on the story line that they’ve been peddling, which is that you can’t do anything with the Republicans in Congress.”
Members of the supercommittee had planned to continue talking Tuesday afternoon, but a bipartisan meeting was abruptly canceled, and neither side appeared optimistic about the prospects for a breakthrough.
“I have yet to see a real, credible plan that raises revenue in a significant way to bring us to a fair, balanced proposal,” Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the Democratic co-chairman of the panel, told reporters.
The latest skirmish comes as the 12-member supercommittee is struggling to come up with a plan to slice at least $1.2 trillion from projected borrowing over the next decade. Unless the committee can reach an agreement by Nov. 23 and lawmakers can push it through Congress before Christmas, the White House could be forced to slash the budgets at the Pentagon and other agencies by about 9 percent starting in January 2013.
The going has been slow, with lawmakers deeply divided over how much of the savings should come from tax increases and how much from spending cuts, including reductions to Social Security and Medicare, the biggest drivers of future borrowing. Until this week, Republicans had been adamantly opposed to any outright tax increases, arguing that federal tax collections should be allowed to rise only as a result of stronger economic growth.
Late Monday, some GOP supercommittee members finally crossed the anti-tax line that their leaders had drawn in the sand. In a meeting that dragged on nearly to midnight, Sens. Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) and Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton, both of Michigan, presented a new proposal to Democrats Kerry, Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.).