One of the six Democrats on the bipartisan joint committee tasked with trimming the country’s debt said Monday that a compromise remains elusive ahead of the panel’s Nov. 23 deadline.
“We’ve got a ways to go before we’re able to reach an agreement,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told Bloomberg’s Peter Cook. “We’re working toward that. And again, the jury’s still out.”
The 12-member “supercommittee” has just 16 days remaining to craft a plan that slices the debt by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade. If the panel fails, then a $1.2 trillion across-the-board cut to both defense and non-defense spending will be enacted in 2013.
Members of the supercommittee have been meeting one-on-one and in small groups with each other and congressional leaders in recent days in the hope of nearing a deal. But with the gap between the parties on tax increases and entitlement reform as wide as ever, each side has been preparing to lay the blame on the other in the event that the panel fails.
Democrats have increasingly sought to portray the GOP as ideologically beholden to Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, the architect of an anti-tax pledge signed by the majority of congressional Republicans.
GOP leaders, meanwhile, have argued that Democrats are not serious about reforming entitlement programs. Republicans have also begun softening their rhetoric on taxes. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Sunday told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour that “we can create revenue out of fixing our tax code and bring that revenue to the table, as long as our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are serious about cutting spending.”
That was a different tone than the one Boehner struck in a September address at the Economic Club of Washington, when he stated firmly that tax increases were off the table in the supercommittee talks.
Members on both sides of the aisle have also begun setting expectations for the battle that may play out after Thanksgiving in the case of a supercommittee failure.
On Monday, Van Hollen said that he believes “every member of the committee has recognized the importance of trying to get a deal, one, just for the American people, showing that the process can work.”
But asked about the economic consequences if the committee comes up short, Van Hollen said he didn’t necessarily believe the markets would react negatively since the “trigger” would ensure that a total of $1.2 trillion is cut beginning in 2013 regardless of what the committee does.
“As you know, different rating agencies have said some different things,” he said. “Recently, Moody’s said that if we didn’t get to the $1.2 trillion, because the sequester would also get $1.2 trillion, it may not get a downgrade. But putting all that aside, whether there is or isn’t, obviously we want to get something done both for the markets, more importantly for the American people and the economy as a whole.”
Van Hollen’s comments echoed remarks made last week by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who told reporters at her weekly news conference that it would be a “disappointment” but not a disaster if the supercommittee fails to reach its goal.