Despite the widespread expectation of failure by the congressional supercommittee charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, there is an emerging view that a deal is within reach. This nascent optimism rests on the notion that the 12 members appointed to the committee have a stake in succeeding, and that the two political parties are not that far apart—assuming the GOP can find some verbal elocution around the antitax pledge 95 per cent of congressional Republicans have signed. In what was likely the committee’s last open hearing before its Nov. 23 deadline, the architects of two well-publicised road maps (Simpson-Bowles and Domenici-Rivlin) chided the committee for Congress’s inability to tackle the nation’s growing and unsustainable debt. “I have great respect for each of you individually, but collectively, I’m worried you’re going to fail—fail the country,” said former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles.
The self-described fiscal conservative outlined a new $2.6 trillion solution that splits the difference between rival Republican and Democratic plans. Bowles said the plan “would create excitement in the country and confidence that we can stand up to our problems.”
Committee co-chair Jeb Hensarling, a Republican from Texas, dryly noted that the plan created excitement in the press, but he appeared unmoved. Bowles included in his calculations $800 billion in revenue and tax increases that Speaker John Boehner had identified in private talks with President Obama during last summer’s debt-ceiling crisis. Boehner pulled out of the talks when it became apparent that Republicans wouldn’t back any agreement that contained added revenue.
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