The Washington Times - October 25, 2011, 01:27PM

The House’s No. 2 Democrat said the nation would face “harmful effects” if the congressional supercommittee fails in its goal to find ways to slash the federal debt by $1.5 trillion.

The deficit panel has the task of identifying by Thanksgiving $1.5 trillion in savings or new tax revenue. Failure would trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts in domestic and defense programs — a move called “sequestration.”

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House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said “the sequester is not an option” because it “will not have a positive outcome.”

“That ought to compel all sides towards reaching an agreement,” said the Maryland Democrat during his weekly briefing Tuesday with reporters at the Capitol. “The sequester will have harmful effects on both the defense side and the non-defense side.”

Mr. Hoyer said he learned from his years serving on the House Appropriations Committee that arbitrary across-the-board spending cuts don’t work.

The Maryland Democrat said he hopeful but not optimistic the 12-member bipartisan supercommitee will reach its goal.

“People ask me ‘Are you optimistic?’ I’m not optimistic, I’m hopeful,” he said. “It’s one of the single most important things we can do to give confidence to our own people — to businesses and consumers — and to strengthen confidence around the world in America’s ability to meet the challenges that confront it.”

Mr. Hoyer said the three House Democrats on the committee have told him the panel is “working productively towards an end.” But he added: “That does not mean they believe there have been agreements.”