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Things aren't looking good for the congressional super committee tasked with cutting more than $1 trillion from the nation's debt.
Some super committee members took to the Sunday morning talk shows, and both sides leveled blame for the current impasse on their political opponents. Republicans say Democrats want to hike taxes to trim the debt, while Democrats say the GOP never negotiated seriously because its members insisted on extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is on the panel and says there's no way his party will cave on the tax issue.
"Democrats are unified, there's no question there," says Van Hollen.
The committee has until Wednesday to reach a deal, but with that deadline drawing near, it appears the panel has failed. If the 12 members can't agree to $1.2 trillion dollars in budget cuts, that same amount will automatically get slashed from the budget in a process called sequestration.
Half of those cuts are supposed to fall on the Pentagon, and the other half on budget items such as education and health care. Some lawmakers have openly discussed undoing those triggered cuts in order to protect their own favored spending priorities. But Van Hollen says that's not a serious option.
"People who are talking about undoing the sequester are not serious about deficit reduction, because if you undo the sequester, you will immediately increase the deficit of the United States by $1.2 trillion," he says. "I'm sure the markets would not respond well to that."
Rating agency S&P already downgraded the U.S. credit rating this year, and analysts say a further downgrade could occur because of the partisan paralysis occurring on Capitol Hill.
Party leaders created the special panel, and many observers say if it fails they are to blame for pulling the strings in secret. But Republicans say it's a failure of leadership from President Obama. Van Hollen says those GOP critics are wrong.
“I think if the president got involved we’d be hearing some of our colleagues on the other side saying he was interfering in the process.”
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