Super committee fails to reach agreement

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) (C) is followed by reporters as she arrives for a meeting between Republican and Democratic members of the 'super committee', or Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, in U.S. Sen. John Kerry's office Nov. 21, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Kai Ryssdal: Late this afternoon, the two super committee co-chairs made it official. No deal, no compromise, no bargain -- grand or otherwise. Did it in a written statement, by the way, no press conference.

Here's the key phrase, from Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Jeb Hensarling: "We have come to the conclusion today," they say, "that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline." Which was midnight tonight, Washington time.

Which means the fate of the federal deficit goes back whence came -- to the entire Congress. In an election year.

From Washington, Marketplace's David Gura reports.

David Gura: Remember where we were just about a year ago? It's December 2010.

Tess Vigeland (Marketplace clip): Today, President Obama explained his decision to compromise with Republicans on extending tax cuts for everyone -- even the rich.

The Bush-era tax cuts, extended temporarily.

Barack Obama: These tax cuts will expire in two years.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer (Marketplace clip): Congress will have to grapple with the issue again.

But they didn't. The deal on the debt ceiling last summer created this committee to tackle the deficit Congress couldn't.

Michael Linden is director of tax and budget policy at the Center for American Progress.

Michael Linden: The major stumbling block has been, and continues to be, taxes for wealthy people.

The super committee couldn't agree, so now it's back to Congress. But that's just one item on the agenda.

Linden: By the end of this year, they're going to have to make a decision about the payroll tax cut.

Some unemployment benefits are set to expire. Ross Baker teaches political science at Rutgers.

Ross Baker: Getting any of those re-authorized and passed is going to be much more difficult than it was in the past.

Baker says Congress doesn't have right ingredients for compromise on a host of expiring tax cuts and benefits.

Baker: The second session of the 112th Congress is sort of in the position of somebody who opens up the refrigerator and discovers that all of the refrigerated goods have expired and they've got to throw them out and go back to the store.

And then there are those automatic cuts that are supposed to kick in if the super committee fails. There's already talk of changing those, but who knows if Congress will be able to agree on that.

In Washington, I'm David Gura for Marketplace.

Here's the full statement from Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Jeb Hensarling:

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.

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. 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.

We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable to come to a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement, but as we approach the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to express our appreciation to every member of this committee, each of whom came into the process committed to achieving a solution that has eluded many groups before us. Most importantly, we want to thank the American people for sharing thoughts and ideas and for providing support and good will as we worked to accomplish this difficult task.

"We would also like to thank our committee staff, in particular Staff Director Mark Prater and Deputy Staff Director Sarah Kuehl, as well as each committee member's staff for the tremendous work they contributed to this effort. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Douglas Elmendorf and Mr. Thomas Barthold and their teams at the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, respectively, for the technical support they provided to the committee and its members.

About the author

David Gura is a senior reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.


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