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On Brink of Failure, U.S. Debt Committee Says It's Gridlocked

Associated Press

On the brink of failure, members of a special deficit-cutting committee blamed each other Sunday for the intransigence that has gridlocked the panel in its quest to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the coming decade.

"If you look at the Democrats' position it was 'We have to raise taxes. We have to pass this jobs bill, which is another almost half-trillion dollars. And we're not excited about entitlement reform,' " Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona said in a combative interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Joint Deficit Reduction Committee co-chairs Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., conduct the committee's hearing on 'Overview of Previous Debt Proposals' on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011
Bill Clark | Getty Images

Fanning out to the sets of the Sunday morning talk shows, Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for a deepening impasse that has all but doomed chances for an accord. In a series of interviews, not a single panelist seemed optimistic about any last-minute breakthrough. Under the committee's rules, any plan would have to be unveiled Monday.

Democrats said that Republicans on the supercommittee were simply unwilling to move on tax increases that Democrats insist should be part of any package that emerges from the negotiations. And Republicans said Democrats' demands on taxes were too great, even in response to a scaled-back GOP offer made late last week.

"There is one sticking divide. And that's the issue of what I call shared sacrifice," said panel co-chair Sen. Patty Murray. "The wealthiest Americans who earn over a million a year have to share too. And that line in the sand, we haven't seen Republicans willing to cross yet," the Washington Democrat said on CNN's "State of the Union."

The Republican co-chair of Congress' debt supercommittee offered a glum assessment of prospects for an agreement.

Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling said "nobody wants to give up," but he also told "Fox News Sunday" that "the reality is to some extent starting to overtake hope." He said the panel's deadlock "was a failure in not seizing an opportunity."

The committee faces a Wednesday deadline. But members would have to agree on the outlines of a package by Monday to allow time for drafting and assessing by the Congressional Budget Office.

Panel members say they will be available for further talks Sunday in hopes of a final breakthrough and some last-minute offers on smaller deficit-cutting packages were possible. Also on the agenda is stage managing the group's disbandment.

Republicans are demanding changes in programs such as Medicare and Medicaid while Democrats are insisting on tax increases on the wealthy.