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Debt supercommittee set to fail to cut deficit $1.2 trillion

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The imminent collapse of a special deficit-reduction supercommittee on Monday promises to set off yet another round of the Washington blame game as the panel officially admits failure in its quest to sop up at least $1.2 trillion in government red ink over the coming decade.

(Photo: Associated Press)

The bipartisan 12-member panel is sputtering to a close after two months of talks in which key members and top congressional leaders never got close to bridging a fundamental divide over how much to raise taxes. The budget deficit forced the government to borrow 36 cents of every dollar it spent last year.

Several panel members attended a last-ditch meeting at mid-day. But there was no indication of a breakthrough, and congressional aides said they expected a formal statement within a few hours announcing the panel's failure to reach a compromise.

The White House, meanwhile, is urging Congress to act amid.

White House press secretary Jay Carney says President Barack Obama put forward a deficit reduction plan in September that could still serve as a roadmap for the supercommittee.

Carney says, "instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game, Congress should act."

The panel has until Wednesday to approve a deficit-slashing plan. If it fails, about $1 trillion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts to domestic programs and the Pentagon budget would be triggered beginning in 2013.

Carney says the defense cuts are "deeper than we think is wise" but the White House does not think Congress should undo the so-called "sequester."

In spite of agreement among Democrats and Republicans on the urgent need to address the nation's spiraling debt problem - the national debt topped $15 trillion last week - Republicans and Democrats appeared to have never gotten particularly close, at least in the official exchanges of offers that were leaked to the media.

"There is one sticking divide. And that's the issue of what I call shared sacrifice," said panel co-chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on CNN's "State of the Union."

"The wealthiest Americans who earn over a million a year have to share too. And that line in the sand, we haven't seen Republicans willing to cross yet," she said.

Republicans said Democrats' demands on taxes were simply too great and weren't accompanied by large enough proposals to curb the explosive growth of so-called entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

"If you look at the Democrats' position it was `We have to raise taxes. We have to pass this jobs bill, which is another almost half-trillion dollars. And we're not excited about entitlement reform,' " countered Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Monday is deadline day. The panel officially has until Wednesday to approve a deficit-slashing plan, but under its rules, any plan would have to be unveiled 48 hours in advance.

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