Supercommittee fails to reach deal on U.S. debt

WASHINGTON - (AP) - The bitter partisanship gripping Washingtonhas blocked a deal among members of a special congressional panelthat struggled and eventually failed in its assignment to cut morethan a trillion dollars from America's crippling and expandingdebt. As the committee announced Monday that it was going out ofbusiness, the U.S. stock market had already taken a sharp declinein anticipation of the so-called supercommittee's inability to puttogether legislation that would slash U.S. deficit spending by atleast $1.2 trillion. The country's overall national debt has risenabove $15 trillion. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarlingsaid that despite "intense deliberations" the members of thepanel were unable "to bridge the committee's significantdifferences." The stalemate could last through next year's presidential andcongressional elections. That could lead to Republicans oustingPresident Barack Obama and winning control of both chambers ofCongress. Or, Democrats could score victories that would forceRepublicans to yield some ground. Simply put, Republicans refused to cross their ideological lineagainst increasing taxes. Democrats refused to allow cuts inpopular programs that serve the elderly and poor without acompensating growth of government income, especially from thewealthiest Americans. The real deadline is Wednesday but a solid draft was due Mondaynight to allow the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office time toassess project savings had a deal been reached. There had been hopeof polished legislation that could go to both houses of Congressfor an up or down vote that precluded any amendments or filibustersto alter or delay action. That was to have happened before the endof the year. The deal between Obama and Congress that set up theSupercommittee included provisions that dictate, in case offailure, $1 trillion in automatic cuts in spending for defense anda range of other government agencies starting in 2013. Obama said in a news conference after the supercommittee'sannouncement that he would veto any attempt to undo the automaticcuts. He blamed Republicans directly for the failure of thesupercommittee, attributing it their unwillingness to compromise ontaxes. "There are still too many Republicans in Congress who haverefused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that arecoming from outside of Washington," he said. "They continue toinsist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for thewealthiest 2 percent of Americans at any cost." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as well as lawmakers in bothparties have warned that the impact of the automatic cuts on thePentagon could be devastating.

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