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As clock ticks, supercommittee members try for last-minute deal

WASHINGTON — A last-ditch effort to reach a deficit deal was under way today, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts hosting at least four other members of the so-called supercommittee, the bipartisan federal deficit panel charged with cobbling together a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction plan.

Kerry was meeting with Republican Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and Rob Portman of Ohio, Democrat Chris Van Hollen, a congressman from Maryland, and Fred Upton, a Republican congressman from Michigan.

The 12-member supercommittee has until today to forward a plan to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring and would need to officially approve a plan by Wednesday. If the panel doesn’t, automatic budget cuts would go into effect in 2013 — and likely throw Congress back into more heated rounds of debate about how best to deal with the country’s fiscal woes.

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The supercommittee first convened in September, but have been challenged to come up with a bipartisan plan because of deep ideological differences over cutting entitlement programs and tax increases.

Democrats say any plan would require new revenues, while Republicans insisted on deeper spending cuts and no new taxes. In recent weeks, there was some movement from both sides — but neither side would budge far enough for a compromise.

A congressional aide described today’s meeting as a “last-ditch’’ effort for a deal.

Reporters and cameras swarmed Kerry’s office, waiting for the men to emerge — perhaps with the long-elusive deal congressional leaders and President Obama say they want to regain public trust in Washington and help build confidence in a faltering economic climate.

On Sunday, Democrats and Republicans went on television news programs to begin the fingerpointing, as the committee appeared to be on the verge of failure.

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