U.S. lawmakers say time is running out for a congressional super committee to identify $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction during the next 10 years. Partisan disagreements remain on how best to improve America’s fiscal health, despite a softening of rigid ideological positions.
Members of the bipartisan, bicameral deficit reduction committee insist a deal is still possible before the November 23 deadline established in a budget deal signed into law earlier this year.
"The clock is running out, but it has not run out yet. We still have time, but we have no time to waste," said Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Toomey spoke on the U.S. television program, "Fox News Sunday." Also appearing on Fox was another super committee member, Democratic Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina.
"We have got 10 days to do this, and I really believe that all of the ingredients for a good resolution are there. We just need to develop the will," he said.
Should the committee fail, automatic budget cuts would be triggered that would fall on domestic spending championed by Democrats and defense spending championed by Republicans.
Both sides have put forth proposals to avoid such an outcome. Republicans are signaling their willingness to consider at least some form of increased revenue, while Democrats say they would be willing to reduce federal spending. But Republicans continue to insist that the bulk of savings should come from spending cuts.
"If you go too far, if you try to create too much revenue, you can do economic damage," said Senator Toomey.
Democrats are pushing for an even mix of spending cuts and tax hikes so that the budget ax does not fall disproportionately on programs replied on by the poor and disadvantaged. Congressman Clyburn says it would be unjust to shield the wealthy from sacrifice to balance the nation’s books.
The minimum target for deficit reduction is $1.2 trillion. Some on the 12-member super committee say they hope for a much bigger deal, perhaps in the $4-trillion range, which would likely require reforms to income and health-care programs for retirees. But the committee appears to be struggling just to meet the minimum amount.
The federal deficit exceeds $1 trillion this year. The national debt, comprised of cumulative annual deficits, totals roughly $15 trillion, or nearly $50,000 for each man, woman, and child in the country.