MORNING LINEPOLITICS -- November 16, 2011 at 8:08 AM ET
Supercommittee Edging Toward Failure
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, was not optimistic of a deal on Tuesday. Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.
After another day of private meetings and negotiations on Capitol Hill, the 12-member Congressional supercommittee was apparently no closer Tuesday to its mandated $1.2 trillion deficit reduction deal, and all signs point to a process that will remain gridlocked until the Nov. 23 deadline.
The clearest sign of that came from the Republican co-chairman, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who said during an interview with CNBC on Tuesday evening that Republicans on the committee were sticking to their no new taxes position.
"Any penny of increased static revenue is a step in the wrong direction. We can only balance that with pro-growth reforms, and, frankly, the Democrats have never agreed [to] that, so I don't know how many times I can tell you that that agreement is not going to happen."
Watch his full interview below:
This position is at odds with what Democratic supercommittee members like Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen also repeat daily: Any deficit reduction deal must be balanced between cuts and tax increases.
Politico and the Washington Post both have reports that reflect a grim conventional wisdom: The supercommittee is expected to fail.
Anne Kornblut at the Washington Post reports that White House officials are privately pessimistic that a deal will happen, but are putting a positive spin on the situation on the record:
"I don't think it makes sense to anticipate their failure," White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew said Tuesday. "I think it's important that they succeed. The president made that clear in the calls he made on Friday."
Politico reports that House and Senate leaders are meeting privately
Sensing that the end game is approaching, Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met Tuesday to discuss the supercommittee's outlook. While the leaders downplayed their talks, their direct involvement suggested they're looking for an escape hatch before the Thanksgiving Eve deadline.
Adding to pressure to the supercommittee are liberals in Congress who fear Democrats may take a huge whack out of cherished entitlement programs -- as well as a bipartisan group of lawmakers who will continue to demand Wednesday that the panel "go big" in its deficit goals and take money out of Medicare while raising tax revenues. Any bipartisan deal would split both parties.
Before Republicans make any deals with Democrats, however, they'll need to make peace in their own party.
"I think what it's really come down is this: this is such a huge problem and we're so near crisis if not in the midst of crisis that if this doesn't get fixed, everybody pays a huge price," said Sen. Mike Johanns, the Nebraska Republican who has endorsed calls for higher revenue.
But as we saw with the debt ceiling and government shutdown deals earlier this year, Congress tends to make deals happen at the very last second, and there's still time for a breakthrough.
Rep. Van Hollen explained his outlook to the NewsHour's Judy Woodruff earlier this week. His description could fit one of many showdowns on Capitol Hill this year:
"It's really been such a roller-coaster ride, that it's hard to predict. At one moment, I'm hopeful, and the next moment, I'm frustrated. And then, sometimes, there's light at the end of the tunnel again. So we're just going to have to wait and see," he said.
Newt Gingrich has seen his stock rise in recent weeks, so it was only a matter of time before his increased standing in the polls invited fresh scrutiny of his record.
Bloomberg News posted a story late Tuesday that reported the former House speaker "made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with mortgage company Freddie Mac, according to two people familiar with the arrangement."
That total is much larger than the one raised in a question at last week's debate in Michigan, in which Gingrich was asked what he did for Freddie Mac to earn a payment of $300,000 in 2006.
Gingrich responded: I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice. And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, "We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that's what the government wants us to do," as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.
Exactly what Gingrich did to earn the money is in dispute, according to the Bloomberg report.
Former Freddie Mac officials familiar with his work in 2006 say Gingrich was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company's public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it.
He was expected to provide written material that could be circulated among free-market conservatives in Congress and in outside organizations, said two former company executives familiar with Gingrich's role at the firm. He didn't produce a white paper or any other document the firm could use on its behalf, they said.
The report puts Gingrich in a tough spot. Even if he told officials at Freddie Mac their lending policies were "insane" -- it still leaves many questions left to be answered about Gingrich's ties to the government-sponsored entity, which he has sharply criticized as a presidential candidate. And with his new-found position as a front-runner in the polls, the glare from the spotlight is likely to only get brighter.
SUPREME COURT TV?
The C-SPAN network is asking the Supreme Court to make an exception to its long-standing refusal to allow live television or radio broadcasts of its proceedings when the constitutionality of President Obama's health care law is argued next spring.
On Monday, the court agreed to hear more than five hours of oral arguments in March on whether it is constitutional to require people to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
That prompted C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb to write a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts requesting that justices allow the session to be broadcast.
"We believe the public interest is best served by live television coverage of this particular oral argument," Lamb wrote on Tuesday. "It is a case which will affect every American's life, our economy and will certainly be an issue in the upcoming presidential campaign."
The justices have allowed the release of same-day audio recordings for arguments in some major cases in recent years. Last year the court started the practice of posting audio to its website on Fridays of the cases heard that week.
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama is in Australia.
Vice President Joe Biden is in New York, where he attends a pair of campaign events.
Newt Gingrich attends a fundraiser for Iowa State Senate candidate Jeff Mullen in Urbandale at 8:30 a.m.
Ron Paul delivers remarks on monetary policy and the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C., at 9 a.m. and addresses the Congressional Health Care Caucus on Capitol Hill at 12:30 p.m. Paul also attends a fundraiser in Vienna, Va., at 7 p.m.
Rick Santorum campaigns in Iowa, holding a pair of meet-and-greets -- in Clinton at 9 a.m. and in DeWitt at 11 a.m. Santorum also visits Scott Community College in Bettendorf at 1:15 p.m. and attends a house party in North Liberty at 7:30 p.m.
Michele Bachmann holds a pair of Iowa town halls -- in Storm Lake at 10 a.m. and in Webster City at 1:30 p.m. Bachmann also attends a house party in West Des Moines at 7 p.m.
Rick Perry tours Granite State Manufacturing in Manchester, N.H., at 10:30 a.m. and holds a town hall in Nashua at 2:15 p.m.
Herman Cain attends a rally in West Palm Beach, Fla., at 5 p.m.
Jon Huntsman holds a town hall in Derry, N.H., at 7 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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