After more than three months of negotiations, the congressional supercommittee announced Monday that it would not be able to reach a deal to reduce the deficit by the group's midnight deadline, citing "inability to bridge the committee's significant differences."
"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," said Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, the committee's two co-chairs, in a joint statement.
"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 continues. "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."CBSNews.com special report: America's debt battle
Technically, the 12-person bipartisan group of lawmakers has until Wednesday at midnight to reach an agreement for reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion, as was tasked to them as part of Congress's August deal to raise the debt limit. But 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 night.
According to the debt limit deal, the committee's inability to
compromise will result in $1.2 trillion worth of automatic cuts in domestic and defense programs as of 2013. The so-called
"sequestration" was designed to serve as an incentive for compromise,
and both parties had previously emphasized their commitment to avoiding
In remarks Monday evening, President Obama warned Congress he would veto any effort to undo the sequester cuts, and called on Congress to "figure it out" in the year before the cuts kick in.
"Already some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts," Mr. Obama said, speaking for about four minutes in a live broadcast Monday evening. My message to them is simple: No."
"I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts," he added. "There will be no easy off-ramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up to compromise, not turn off the pressure. The only way these spending cuts will not take place is if Congress gets back to work and agrees on a plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion dollars. That's exactly what they need to do."
At least seven committee members were involved in last-minute negotiations aimed at hammering out an agreement on Monday, and Democratic Sen. John Kerry purportedly floated an eleventh-hour proposal to the committee that would have included $1 trillion worth of tax increases.
But the issue of including tax revenues in the deficit reduction package remained a sticking point throughout the negotiations, and as of late afternoon on Monday, one Democratic aide said there had been "no sense of progress" despite the continued talks.In a statement Monday afternoon, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, one of the Democrats on the supercommittee, said he was "very disappointed" in the group's failure, and expressed his hope for a meaningful discussion about why the committee was unable to meet its goal.
"Many will portray this failure as the inevitable consequence of two partisan sides refusing to give ground," Van Hollen said. "Blaming both sides equally will be the simple storyline and the path of least resistance. And it will be easy for people to deride any attempt to explain what happened as more partisan finger-pointing."
"That approach would be as easy as it would be wrong. It would ignore everyone's responsibility to seek the facts and the truth," he added. "In the days ahead, I urge the public and the media to carefully review the facts and record about what prevented the Joint Committee from developing a sound and balanced plan. I look forward to that discussion."
House Speaker John Boehner said he hoped the House would "forge ahead with the commitments we have made to reducing government spending and removing barriers standing in the way of private-sector job creation" despite the absence of a deficit reduction package.
"Doing otherwise is not an option," Boehner said in a statement. "This process did not end in the desired outcome, but it did bring our enormous fiscal challenges into greater focus. I am confident the work done by this committee will play a role in the solution we must eventually find as a nation."
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already begun pointing fingers for what is increasingly being seen as an exercise in partisan congressional dysfunction.
One GOP leadership aide targeted Democrats' insistence on tax increases in any framework for a deal as the reason for the committee's failure, and contended that President Obama had designed a political strategy that doomed the committee to failure.
"The Supercommittee's failure is a direct result of President Obama's negligence and Democrats' intransigence," added RNC chair Reince Priebus in a statement. "Over the last four months, Republicans on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction worked around the clock to offer multiple proposals that would have broad bipartisan appeal. While Republicans were at the table negotiating in good faith, President Obama continued to prioritize campaigning over governing."
Democrats, on the other hand, took the GOP's refusal to raise taxes as a sign that the party is beholden to anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
"Americans demanded and Democrats repeatedly supported a big, bold, and balanced plan to reduce our deficit and grow our economy," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a statement. "The plan could not be balanced because Republicans insisted on extending the Bush tax cuts for people making more than a million dollars a year and repealing the Medicare guarantee - while refusing to accept a jobs proposal. By rejecting a balanced approach, Republicans chose to keep their pledge to Grover Norquist to protect the wealthiest one percent at all costs."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted Republicans for "listening to the extreme voices in their party instead of the voices of reason."
"I am disappointed that Republicans never found the courage to ignore Tea Party extremists and millionaire lobbyists like Grover Norquist, and listen instead to the overwhelming majority of Americans - including the vast majority of Republicans - who want a balanced approach to deficit reduction," he said in a statement. "For the good of our country, Democrats were prepared to strike a grand bargain that would make painful cuts while asking millionaires to pay their fair share, and we put our willingness on paper. But Republicans never came close to meeting us halfway."
Meanwhile, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, turned their attention to the impact they believe the sequestration will have on American national security -- and said the "draconian" defense cuts "cannot be allowed to occur."
"As every military and civilian defense official has stated, these cuts represent a threat to the national security interests of the United States, and cannot be allowed to occur," the two said in a joint statement. "We are now working on a plan to minimize the impact of the sequester on the Department of Defense and to ensure that any cuts do not leave us with a hollow military. The first responsibility of any government is to provide for the common defense; we will pursue all options to make certain that we continue to fulfill that solemn commitment."
In a press briefing Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney deflected criticism that the Mr. Obama was insufficiently involved in the negotiations, noting that while the president put forth a blueprint for a deficit reduction plan, "there wasn't a seat at that table, that I'm aware of, for a member of the administration."
"This committee was established by an act of Congress. It was comprised of members of Congress. Instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game, Congress should act, fulfill its responsibility," Carney said.
While Carney conceded that the committee's failure to reach a deal will result in cuts to the defense budget that are "much deeper than we think are wise," he declined to suggest that the White House might reverse the so-called sequester.
Congress "needs to hold itself to account," he said. "And also should not then try to undo the consequences of their own failure, the consequences that they themselves passed into law."
Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services committee, said Monday evening he would be putting forth legislation aimed at preventing trigger cuts he argued would do "catastrophic damage to our men and women in uniform."
"I will be introducing legislation in the coming days to prevent cuts that will do catastrophic damage to our men and women in uniform and our national security," McKeon said in a statement. "Our military has already contributed nearly half a trillion to deficit reduction. Those who have given us so much, have nothing more to give."