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Deficit-cutting panel appears deadlocked

By Associated Press
October 10, 2011

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WASHINGTON - After weeks of secret meetings, the 12-member deficit-cutting panel established under last summer’s budget and debt deal appears no closer to a breakthrough than when talks began last month.

Lawmakers, aides, and lobbyists closely tracking the committee are increasingly skeptical, even pessimistic, that the panel will be able to meet its assigned goal of at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next 10 years.

The reason? A familiar deadlock over taxes and cuts to major programs such as Medicare and the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.

Democrats will not go for an agreement that doesn’t include lots of new tax revenue; Republicans are just as ardently antitax. The impasse over revenues means that Democrats will not agree to cost curbs on popular entitlement programs.

“Fairness has to be a prerequisite for it,’’ said Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House majority leader. “We have just come through passing a bill that was [all spending] cuts, no revenue.’’ Pelosi was referring to the August debt limit bill, which set tight “caps’’ on agency budgets but did not contain revenue increases pressed by Democrats.

Democrats are more insistent on revenues now.

The two parties have equal strength on the panel, which has until Thanksgiving to come up with a plan to submit for up-or-down House and Senate votes in December. That means bipartisan compromise is a prerequisite for a successful result.