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Republicans Soften No-Tax Pledge to Trim US Deficit

  • Michael Bowman

In the U.S. Congress, Republican leaders say they would be willing to break a no-tax pledge as part of a comprehensive deal to reduce America’s massive federal deficit. Signs of possible compromise continue to emerge on Capitol Hill, where a deficit reduction super committee is working to meet a November 23 deadline to shave at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit over 10 years.

In the politically-divided Congress, widespread pessimism on prospects for a deficit-reduction deal appear to be giving way to steely determination. Senator Lamar Alexander:

“Failure is not an option," said Alexander.

Moments earlier, a cautious assessment from the Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid.

“My members still think they can get something done," said Reid.

After months of insisting on spending cuts alone to balance America’s books, Republicans say they have submitted a proposal to the super committee that would include new tax revenue, combined with deep cuts to domestic programs championed by Democrats.

President Barack Obama long ago signaled his willingness to restructure costly programs that provide income and health care to retirees. The basic ingredients for a deal are falling into place, according to Senator Alexander.

“Republicans have put revenue on the table," he said. "Democrats have put entitlements on the table. We need a result.”

But the ratio of spending cuts to tax hikes remains a stumbling block. Democrats favor an even mix. Republicans want to rely more on spending restraint. Meanwhile, time for the super committee to act is growing short.

“Congress and government generally do not do things until the last minute," he said. "The last minute is fast approaching.”

Americans of every age are registering their hopes and concerns about the task before Congress.

“Obviously my generation, the future for it looks pretty bleak right now due to the fact that both parties can’t seem to reach a commitment and work with each others, " said student Trevor Schram. "It’s really disappointing to stand by and watch, when there’s really nothing we can do about it, knowing that their decisions are going to affect my future.”

“What can the lawmakers do? Well they can do what is good for the country, "said federal worker Frank Kiley. "We don’t want to have here in the United States what is happening over in Europe.”

That message appears to be resonating with lawmakers. The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell:

“We need an outcome," said McConnell. "The American people need an outcome, they expect an outcome, the deserve an outcome, and I expect to get one.”

Failure by the bipartisan super committee to act by November 23 would trigger automatic spending cuts to domestic programs and national defense.