Washington – The bipartisan congressional panel that was meant to produce a plan to cut the U.S. budget deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next decade is breaking up without an agreement, its co-chairs said Monday.
"After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline," Rep. Jeb Hensarling, (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash.) said in a statement.
The 12-member supercommittee had a Nov. 23 deadline to produce a detailed proposal for a minimum of $1.2 trillion in budget cuts and/or tax increases over the next decade, on top of the $1 trillion in savings that formed part of August's accord to raise the U.S. debt limit.
Though the official deadline is two days away, time effectively ran out on Monday, as the committee was required to publish its proposal 48 hours ahead of the vote.
The legislation creating the "Super Congress" stipulated that if least seven of the 12 members agreed on a plan, the House and Senate would hold up-or-down votes on the package, with no amendments allowed.
In the absence of an accord, the debt-limit pact calls for automatic cuts to the Pentagon and discretionary domestic spending in a process known as sequestration.
The failure to secure a deal highlights the differences between Democrats and Republicans and heightens the air of economic uncertainty in Washington.
"Despite our inability to bridge the committee's significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve," the statement from the co-chairs said.
The panel's admission of defeat came as no surprise, given the tenor of the two parties' public comments in recent weeks.
"We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee's work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy," Murray and Hensarling said.
The negotiations foundered on the issue of taxes.
While President Barack Obama and the Democrats urged eliminating the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, Republicans sought to make those cuts permanent, offering in exchange to eliminate or reduce some exemptions.
Obama was quick to react to the committee's announcement, urging lawmakers to try harder to forge a consensus on deficit-trimming measures and threatening to veto any attempt to block the sequestration process.
"I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts," he told reporters in the White House briefing room. "One way or another," the president said, the deficit will be reduced by an additional $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
The automatic spending cuts are not due to take effect until 2013.