After multiple meetings Friday, Democrats publicly excoriated a fall-back offer by Super Committee Republicans to cut 10-year deficits by over $600 billion. And for the first time, Democratic members are publicly casting doubt on the panel’s chances to meet its Wednesday deadline.
Partisan tempers flared over how Democrats and Republicans describe the offer, which includes a trivial amount of new tax revenue, but doesn’t touch entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Only $3 billion of the total package comes from new tax revenues — ending a tax preferences for owners of corporate jets. The rest came from spending cuts to federal agencies, federal pay, agricultural subsidies, higher fees and spectrum and land sales, and interest saved on the national debt.
Democratic aides mocked the plan as wildly imbalanced — a 200:1 spending cuts-to-tax revenue offer Republicans never should have made. That counts land and spectrum sales as spending cuts, which they really aren’t.
Republicans defended the plan as $229 billion in fees and revenues, $316 billion in cuts, 100 of which come from defense. But only a tiny fraction of the $229 billion comes from actual tax revenues — and CBO counts many fees as spending cuts, because they save the federal government money by passing on costs to taxpayers.
Republicans note that all the proposed savings have been fairly uncontroversial in the past. But even if that’s the case the entire menu is skewed heavily toward GOP preferences, and would make it difficult to reach consensus on future negotiations. Democrats have not foreclosed on the idea of a small, last-ditch package, but only one that culls equally from provisions that Dems and Republicans prefer.
Specifics aside, Democrats have never sounded less hopeful.
Dem co-chair Patty Murray said “it does not meet — even come close to coming to meet — the issues we have set out from the beginning: fair and balanced.”
Sen. John Kerry — who almost always claims to be hopeful for the committee — now says things look pretty grim. “If you’re going to ask every average American who drives a car, goes to work, struggles each day to pay their bill — if they’re going to somehow be part of the solution, to have something on the table that does not ask the wealthiest people in the country to share in it would be unconscionable,” Kerry said. “So this is the divide now. We’re still working. I hope we can get there. But I don’t know at this point.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.