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'Supercommittee' Fails to Reach US Deficit Agreement

Co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Democratic Senator Patty Murray, Nov 21, 2011.

A special congressional "supercommittee" announced late Monday that it was unable to reach an agreement on cutting the U.S. federal deficit by $1.2 trillion during the next decade. Our correspondent reports from Capitol Hill on the failure of Democratic and Republican lawmakers to bridge their differences.

After months of deliberations and much anticipation, there was no joint press conference on Capitol Hill. The co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling, released a written statement, saying it will not be possible to issue a bipartisan agreement before the deadline. The statement said that despite their significant differences, the panel is united in their belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and not left for the next generation.

Watch related report: US Deficit Reduction Committee by Michael Bowman

Before the announcement, Democratic and Republican lawmakers had begun to blame each other for the failure.

Democratic Senator John Kerry, a member of the supercommittee, said there was only one reason for not reaching an agreement, and pointed to Republicans' refusal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

"It is the insistence on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which the vast majority of Americans do not think we should do," said Kerry.

Ideological differences have kept Democrats and Republicans from agreeing on how to rein in the country's budget deficits for much of the past year. Democrats refuse to accept major cuts to the social welfare programs; Republicans refuse to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, who is not a member of the supercommittee, told Bloomberg television he had never held high hopes for the panel, which met mostly in secret, to tackle the crucial issue of the nation's debt.

"I think what Congress should do is fulfill its responsibility, to publicly, openly debate these serious issues, the most incredible issue of our time," said Sessions.

The supercommittee was created in August when the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives were unable to resolve a dispute on raising the U.S. debt ceiling.