Debt supercommittee set to fail to cut deficit $1.2 trillion
Instead, it appeared co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas would issue a statement declaring the panel's work at an end, aides said.
Failure by the panel would trigger about $1 trillion over nine years in automatic across-the-board spending cuts to a wide range of domestic programs and the Pentagon budget, starting in 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This action, called a "sequester," would also generate $169 billion in savings from lower interest costs on the national debt.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the required cuts of up to $454 billion to the Pentagon would be "devastating" and leave a "hollow force."
Defense hawks of Capitol Hill promise they won't allow them to be that deep. But that effort will be complicated by the insistence of other lawmakers that the overall amount of the budget cuts be left in place.
The panel's failure also sets up a fight within a battle-weary, dysfunctional Congress over renewing a payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, both of which are set to expire at the end of the year. Both proposals are part of President Barack Obama's $447 billion jobs plan.
Extending the current 2 percentage point payroll tax cut isn't a popular idea with many Republicans, but allowing it to expire could harm the economy, economists say. So too would a cutoff of unemployment benefits averaging about $300 a week to millions of people who have been out of work for more than six months.
Serious negotiations ended Friday after Democrats rejected a $644 billion offer comprised of $543 billion in spending cuts, fees and other non-tax revenue, as well as $3 billion in tax revenue from closing a special tax break for corporate purchases of private jets. It also assumed $98 billion in reduced interest costs.
Earlier exchanges featured a more than $3 trillion plan from Democrats that would have increased tax revenues by $1.3 trillion in exchange for further cuts in agency budgets, a change in the measure used to calculate cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries, and curbs on the growth of Medicare and Medicaid.
"We put on the table a proposal that required tough compromises on both sides, and they never did that," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the only House Democrat on the panel to participate in late-stage bipartisan talks.
Republicans countered with a $1.5 trillion plan that included a potential breakthrough - $250 billion in higher taxes gleaned as Congress passes a future tax reform measure. The plan was trashed by Democrats, however, who said it would have lowered tax rates for the wealthy too far while eliminating tax breaks that chiefly benefit the middle class.
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