Toomey: Deficit deal will be "very difficult"
Updated: 2:18 p.m. ET
Despite reports that the supercommittee has all but given up on attempts to reach an agreement on reducing the deficit before Wednesday's deadline, Republican Senator Pat Toomey said Sunday it's "not entirely too late."
"It's going to be very difficult," Toomey told CBS' Bob Schieffer in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I will acknowledge the time is short now."
Toomey, one of six Republican Congress members on the so-called supercommittee, which has been charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings before Thanksgiving as part of Congress's August deal to raise the debt limit, echoed what appears to be a growing sense
While Wednesday night is the supercommittee's official deadline to reach an agreement, the members are legally required to make their plan public at least 48 hours before voting on it -- which means that the committee must come to a deal by Monday at midnight.
If no deal is reached, $1.2 trillion is set to be automatically cut from areas like Medicare and national security in 2013 - an alternative which was designed to serve as an incentive for compromise, and which both parties say they want to avoid.
"There were 12 members of this committee [who] put in an enormous amount of time and effort into trying to accomplish something," Toomey told Shieffer, adding that it's "still possible to reach an agreement but it will be tough given what is happening."
Earlier this month, Democrats rejected a Republican plan that would have lowered tax rates for all income levels in exchange for limiting some key deductions, which Republicans say would bring $250-300 billion into the Treasury. The plan would also make permanent the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush. Democrats adamantly opposed making those tax cuts permanent, and say doing so would add $4 trillion to the deficit.
Democrats also rejected a Republican contingency plan that would cut $643 billion from the deficit. That proposal would include mandatory spending cuts and fees that had bipartisan backing in past negotiations, a GOP leadership aide told CBS News' Jill Jackson. As a concession to Democrats, Republicans would close the corporate jet tax loophole that their members have been pushing to eliminate for months.
"There was an unwillingness to cut any kind of spending at all unless there was a huge tax increase," Toomey said.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wa., the Democratic co-chair of the supercommittee, maintained Thursday that Democrats were willing to work with Republicans but that "I would hope that is a way for them to understand that...they need to compromise, too."
"There is one sticking divide. And that's the issue of what I call shared sacrifice," she added in an interview with CNN this weekend. "The wealthiest Americans who earn over a million a year have to share too. And that line in the sand, we haven't seen Republicans willing to cross yet."
Still, Toomey said he had "taken a lot of arrows" for his plan, due to the inclusion of revenue increases that would result from closing some tax loopholes, and lambasted Democrats for declining to rally behind it.
"My friend Jim Clyburn, the [Democratic] congressman from South Carolina, said as recently as last week, said twice, the Democrats never coalesced around any plan. So it was just very, very challenging; very, very difficult," he said. "There is still an opportunity. There's a plan on the table that would at least take us halfway to our goal which is on the shelf, it's scored and ready to go. If the Democrats would agree to that, we could still get something done. If they come back with a counter-proposal we'd work on it."
Democrats continue to push for tax increases for high-earning Americans, but Republicans show no willingness to budge on that issue.
Amid the growing consensus that the supercommittee will be forced to admit defeat on Monday, Toomey cited the trigger spending cuts - or "sequestration" - as a "silver lining" to the ordeal.
"The silver lining in what will be a huge disappointment for me if we don't have real success here, the silver lining is we're going to get the spending cuts anyway," Toomey said.
But he argued that those cuts needed to be "reconfigured."
"They're done in a way that would be very harmful to our nation's defense," Toomey said. "Our own Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, has said that they would hollow out our military. I think it's very important that we change the configuration but that we not abandon the spending cuts because we need them."
Whether or not a "reconfiguration" of the sequestration is possible, however, remains to be seen.
President Obama, for his part, has shot down the possibility that the triggers will be rethought altogether, reminding committee members that "the whole idea of the sequester was to make sure that both sides felt obligated to move off rigid positions and do what was required to help the country."
- Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.Follow on Twitter »
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