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US Congressional 'Supercommittee' Faces Deadline on Budget Deal

  • Cindy Saine

The battle over how to reduce the United States' $15 trillion debt is now being debated by a bipartisan congressional "supercommittee". With a deadline for agreement just days away, the same ideological differences over taxes and social programs that have long divided Republicans and Democrats still appear to keep them apart.

The politically-divided U.S. Congress remains stuck over how to reign in the country's growing deficit and debt.

And so far, even a powerful, bipartisan supercommittee has failed in its mission to find $1.2 trillion in cuts ahead of a pre-set deadline. No deal by November 23 and automatic spending cuts to domestic programs and national defense kick in in 2013.

Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says there's good reason for the deadline.

"There had to be something that really forced them to make a deal and so they set up this procedure of across the board cuts including defense cuts that they thought would be such a horrendous alternative that they would have to find agreement,"

The supercommittee appears to be in trouble for the same reason agreement has eluded the full Congress in the past. Progressive Democrats fear the panel will slash social welfare programs they cherish.

"I will be damned if we will balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor," said Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. "That’s wrong.”

And conservative Republicans fear the super committee will raise taxes - something many of them oppose.

"The joint select committee has only one option: spending cuts and entitlement reform," Republican House Speaker John Boehner said.

Some Republicans now indicate they might be willing to include some tax increases, but wary Democrats say the ratio of spending cuts to tax hikes remains an obstacle.

That's prompting some lawmakers from both parties to call on the supercommittee to "go big" and hammer out a bold deal of $4 trillion in cuts and tax increases.

"Failure can't be an option," said Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. "The whole rest of the world is watching."

Some lawmakers say that if the supercommittee fails to find a solution to the impasse that will further shake the confidence of global markets and of many Americans that Congress can resolve the nation's fiscal challenges.

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