Deficit panel down; time almost up

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But Democrats have panned the offer because it also would cut the top tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent - a move they complained would let wealthier earners receive large tax cuts while middle-class workers would lose deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes.

“You can’t get to a 28 percent [level], which loses you a huge amount of revenue, and wind up with the money that you need to be able to fill the gap,” Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and deficit panel member, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It would be the biggest tax cut since Calvin Coolidge.”

Mr. Kerry also said that Mr. Kyl’s accusation that Democrats haven’t been willing to agree to spending cuts without an equal amount of tax increases was “patently not true.”

“We Democrats put a $4 trillion deal on the table and it included huge, hard, tough, horrible reductions on the sacred cows and things that we have been accused of not being willing to do,” he said.

Mr. Hensarling called the struggling negotiations “a huge missed opportunity,” but said the “good news” is if the supercommittee fails, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts would be triggered in early 2013.

The Texas Republican added he hopes Congress would undo the $600 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon, which he said would undermine national security.

Mr. Toomey also said it would be “very important that we change the configuration” of the automatic cuts to protect the Pentagon but that he would want to keep the $1.2 trillion spending cut target.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta sent a letter this month to Congress describing the proposed defense cuts as “devastating.”

Rep. Xavier Becerra, California Democrat and deficit panel member, said altering the automatic cuts - which were written into the legislation that formed the supercommitee - would be wrong because Congress should stick to deficit-reduction decisions it already has made.

“It’s a wimpy way out to say we’re going to change the triggers because ‘I don’t like the result out of the supercommittee,’” Mr. Becerra told “Fox News Sunday.”

“There’s a smarter ways to do it than with triggers. But you start shaving away the responsibility to actually make some of those cuts and savings, then guess what, you’re in a worse hole in a year from now than you are today.”

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said that if the supercommittee fails, then Congress should reconsider a $4 trillion deficit-reduction proposal floated last year by a bipartisan committee headed by former Sen. Alan Simpson, Wyoming Republican, and Erskine Bowles, a chief of staff for President Clinton.

“If they can’t get to a deal, then they’re going to have to step aside and, hopefully, there will be enough of us stepping forward to basically reintroduce the Bowles-Simpson plan,” Mr. Manchin said on “Face the Nation.”

“That’s really the one that we think puts our fiscal house in order, puts us back in shape.”

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