Democrats, Republicans far apart on deficit deal
WASHINGTON - Members of Congress' special deficit-cutting "supercommittee" are expressing pessimism over the prospects they'll reach a deal before next week's deadline.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen is questioning whether Republican panel members are willing to negotiate any more on taxes. The Maryland Democrat says he's wondering "whether they've kind of said `take it or leave it."'
Van Hollen was reacting to remarks made by the supercommittee's Republican co-chair. Last night, Congressman Jeb Hensarling told CNBC that Republicans have gone as far as they feel they can go on tax hikes. But this afternoon, Hensarling told reporters that the GOP offer on taxes isn't final and could change if Democrats offer what he describes as serious cost curbs to Medicare and Medicaid.
If the panel fails to agree on at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by next Wednesday, across-the-board cuts would take effect.
Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers from both parties continue to push the committee to exceed that target. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad says if they are "bold" then Congress and "the American people will stand with them."