But there was no sign of progress.
And in an evening interview on CNBC, Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), the panel’s House co-chairman, said that the group’s Republican members have “gone as far as we feel we can go” on the key issue of taxes.
Democrats quickly pounced on the implication that Republicans were backing away from the bargaining table.
“It looks like these guys are giving up and throwing in the towel,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who has been at the center of the negotiations. The latest GOP offer “does not meet the test of a balanced approach,” he added.
In recent days, talks have focused on a tax package of as much as $650 billion over the next decade, with $100 billion in upfront tax increases on various business interests and $550 billion to come later through an overhaul of the tax code, according to sources in both parties with knowledge of the discussions.
But on Tuesday, it was unclear whether either side could make those numbers work. Such a deal probably would require far deeper cuts to entitlements than most Democrats have been willing to stomach. Meanwhile, some Republicans are drawing a hard line at the $300 billion in new taxes in the most recent GOP offer.
By early evening, Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and their top policy aides had all left the Capitol, a stark contrast from the round-the-clock negotiations that marked the summer negotiations.
Reid told reporters earlier in the day that he had hoped that by now “there would be a lot of hand-holding and hugs and pats on the back and we’d be headed home for Thanksgiving.”
Instead, the talks have included “a few armlocks” and “headlocks,” Reid said, adding: “I hope we can get this done.”
While Democrats and Republicans on the supercommittee huddled separately Tuesday, the clamor against a bipartisan deal continued to grow.
The process remains stymied by the same issues that killed the chance of major compromise during the summer debt-ceiling debate.
Some conservatives in the Republican House majority said they could not support the latest GOP offer to raise taxes by as much as $300 billion over the next decade as part of a broader deal to cut spending. The offer marked the first time Republicans other than Boehner have proposed raising taxes above current levels.
Liberal lawmakers and progressive groups have been equally dismayed by the prospect that Democrats on the supercommittee may be willing to accept sharp cuts in domestic programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, in exchange for a relatively minor increase in taxes.