Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) take a break from a closed-door… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)
Republicans on the deficit-reduction super committee have proposed steep spending cuts and no new taxes as a counter-offer to the nearly $3-trillion "grand bargain" Democrats put on the table as the committee shows little sign of compromise.
A GOP aide said the proposal offers new revenues without imposing tax hikes, but the offer was roundly dismissed by Democrats. One Democratic aide called it "a joke."
"That doesn't sound like anything that would even be in the league," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the House minority leader.
Republicans similarly rejected the Democratic proposal for a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts as not serious.
The public airing of the closed-door talks can be taken as either the first signs of serious negotiations or a rerun of the partisan stalemate that blocked deficit-reduction efforts this year.
The committee is racing the clock before its Thanksgiving deadline. Failure to cut $1.5 trillion over the decade would force mandatory cuts that both sides want to avoid and could risk a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) acknowledged Wednesday that "we're into the real tough time."
"I expect that it's going to be very difficult to get to an outcome, but I am committed to getting to an outcome," Boehner said.
Democrats had proposed cutting up to $3 trillion from deficits by imposing new taxes on the wealthy and trimming the Medicare and Medicaid health entitlement programs dear to Democrats, along with other spending cuts.
Republicans have resisted new taxes, as most Republican lawmakers have signed an anti-tax pledge from the influential conservative activist Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. The GOP prefers deep spending cuts to bring down deficits. Republicans also want to cut corporate and individual tax rates, which they believe will spur economic growth and increase revenues.
"Republicans are choosing a pinky swear with Grover Norquist over real solutions the American people need to create jobs and improve our economy," said the Democratic aide. "Their offer is a joke. Democrats came to the table with an offer that had serious skin in the game for both parties. Rather than offering real solutions, Republicans are just doing more of the same posturing they do every time they walk away from efforts to constructively tackle this crisis."