Time Running Out for Supercommittee

BY Terence Burlij  November 14, 2011 at 7:44 AM EDT

Joint Deficit Reduction Committee; photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images *The Joint Deficit Reduction Committee is facing a Nov. 23 deadline to reduce deficits by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.*

The Morning Line

Time is running out for the bipartisan Congressional supercommittee charged with cutting at least $1.2 trillion from the nation’s deficit over 10 years, and members are trying to avoid automatic spending cuts to military and domestic projects in the absence of a compromise.

According to Robert Pear of the New York Times, they’re looking for yet another way to kick the can down the road:

Until now, the main obstacle to a deal was Republicans’ unwillingness to raise taxes and Democrats’ unwillingness to make significant cuts in the growth of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without tax increases. To shave deficits by $1.2 trillion without raising revenue or touching entitlement programs could require deep cuts in domestic spending, the military or both.

As the deficit panel enters a final frenetic week of negotiations, Republicans and Democrats said they hoped to give broadly worded instructions to the regular tax-writing committees of Congress — the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee — to come up with a certain amount of revenue after the panel completes its work this month.

The chairmen of the tax-writing committees, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, have said they would welcome such instructions.

The outlook for an agreement doesn’t look good considering the committee’s deadline is Nov. 23 and that any deal must be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which means the committee could have already breached a soft deadline for allowing the CBO to complete its analysis.

Moving the debate over reforming the federal tax code — a massive undertaking — would mean shifting the ongoing debate over fiscal policy into 2012 and avoiding difficult choices in the short term. With Congressional elections approaching, it might also mean punting on real choices about tax rates past November 2012.

The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman report that Sunday saw neither side coming closer to bridging a gap on how much to cut and how much to raise in taxes:

Mathematically, the gap between the two sides on the supercommittee has narrowed. Republicans have offered a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction package that would cut spending by about $750 billion over the next decade while raising about $500 billion in revenue, including about $300 billion in new taxes. Democrats have offered to trim borrowing by $2 trillion, with that sum equally divided between spending cuts and tax increases.

After a long day of talks Sunday, the two sides were no closer to agreement, according to sources in both parties. Significant differences remained about both the size of the tax target and the form of an enforcement mechanism, with Democrats arguing for a trigger that would automatically raise taxes unless Congress acts.

For his part, President Obama is still pushing the committee for a balanced approach that includes tax increases on the wealthy and modest reforms to entitlements. He addressed the issue during a press availability during the APEC conference in Hawaii:

“My hope is that over the next several days, the congressional leadership on the super committee go ahead and bite the bullet and do what needs to be done — because the math won’t change. There’s no magic formula. There are no magic beans that you can toss on the ground and suddenly a bunch of money grows on trees. We got to just go ahead and do the responsible thing. And I’m prepared to sign legislation that is balanced, that solves this problem.”

SURVEYING THE FIELD

It appears that the tumult of last week has taken its toll on Herman Cain and Rick Perry, according to a pair of new surveys.

Despite sitting atop the Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll released Monday, Cain’s hold on the top spot is less than firm. As James Hohmann explains, Cain’s support dropped sharply last Monday, after the first woman to accuse the Republican contender of inappropriate sexual behavior, Sharon Bialek, came forward publicly.

Among likely Republican voters surveyed Sunday, Nov. 6, Cain led the field with 40 percent. On Monday, he was third with 22 percent. By Wednesday, just 19 percent of those surveyed said they supported Cain for the nomination.

As Cain’s support dropped, Mitt Romney’s surged, with 40 percent of those surveyed last Wednesday saying they backed the former Massachusetts governor. (The full sample had Cain at 27 percent and Romney at 25 percent. Perry and Newt Gingrich each received 14 percent.)

The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, meanwhile, went back and interviewed Republican voters who had been polled earlier this month and found that Cain had relinquished his lead to Romney, who received the support of 32 percent of respondents, up from 27 percent. Cain’s support dropped from 28 percent to 27 percent.

Like Romney, Gingrich also saw his standing rise, from 17 percent to 22 percent. The survey, taken after Perry’s debate flub last week, showed the Texas governor’s support falling from 8 percent to 4 percent.

As the Journal’s Jonathan Weisman reports, the rest of the poll numbers don’t look any better for Perry:

Republican primary voters now have more negative feelings about the Texan than positive feelings. A week ago, 38% felt positively toward the governor, while 24% felt negatively. Now 28% feel warmly toward Mr. Perry; 33% said they feel somewhat or very negative about him.

Taken together, the two surveys show some positive developments for Romney, who had been struggling to break past 25 percent in most recent polls. These polls seem to indicate that the GOP front-runner may have yet to hit his ceiling among Republican voters.

The surveys also hint that Gingrich may likely be the next “Romney alternative” to emerge, following Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Perry and Cain, although his staying power will largely depend on whether he’s able to avoid the missteps that almost sunk his campaign earlier this year.

DINING WITH CAIN

Cain, who built his career working in the food industry — and most famously with Godfather’s Pizza — sat down with GQ in mid-October to discuss presidential politics, pizza toppings and ice cream flavors.

You can read the full article here, but we wanted to point you in the direction of two highlights. First, Cain’s perspective on pizza toppings:

Chris Heath: What can you tell about a man by the type of pizza that he likes?

Herman Cain: [repeats the question aloud, then pauses for a long moment] The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is.

Chris Heath: Why is that?

Herman Cain: Because the more manly man is not afraid of abundance. [laughs]

Devin Gordon: Is that purely a meat question?

Herman Cain: A manly man don’t want it piled high with vegetables! He would call that a sissy pizza.

The other excerpt involves Cain’s GOP rivals and ice cream flavors:

Devin Gordon: Let me ask you about your rivals. Recently, in response to a question about you being the new “flavor of the month,” you said you weren’t a flavor of the month, you were Häagen-Dazs black walnut, which “tastes good all the time.” If Mitt Romney was an ice cream flavor, what flavor would he be?

Herman Cain: Oh, just plain vanilla. [laughs] Are you guys really going to print this? I have learned that with my new status in the polls, any- and every thing that I say will show up somewhere. Do you guys really want to do this ice cream analogy?

Devin Gordon: We do. Rick Perry?

Herman Cain: Rick Perry: rocky road.

Devin Gordon: Michele Bachmann?

Herman Cain: Michele Bachmann… I’m not going to say it. I’m not going to say it.

Devin Gordon: Oh, come on!

Herman Cain: Tutti-frutti. I know I’m going to get in trouble!

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama delivers remarks at a campaign event in Kapolei, Hawaii, at 4:15 p.m.
  • Vice President Joe Biden is in Washington where this afternoon he swears in John Bryson as Secretary of Commerce.
  • Newt Gingrich meets with employees of GuideOne Insurance in Des Moines, Iowa, at 12 p.m., holds a meet-and-greet in Jefferson at 5 p.m. and hosts a reception and book signing event in Carroll at 7 p.m.
  • Herman Cain holds a fundraiser in Milwaukee at 12:30 p.m. and attends a tailgate party in Green Bay before the Packers-Vikings game.
  • Michele Bachmann visits McCarthy & Bailey’s Irish Pub in Sioux City, Iowa, at 1 p.m. and holds a pair of town halls — in Le Mars at 3 p.m. and in Sheldon at 6:30 p.m.
  • Jon Huntsman discusses his jobs plan at the Brookings Institution in Washington at 2:15 p.m.
  • Rick Perry speaks at the Scott County GOP Ronald Reagan Dinner in Bettendorf, Iowa, at 7:15 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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