With less than a month to go before the deadline to produce a debt deal, it appears that the Congressional deficit-reduction committee is nowhere close to a deal. Even worse, neither side can even get their rank-and-file members to back the current proposals.
Both Democrats and Republican leaked details of their current proposals and nobody seems very happy. Speaker of the House John Boehner called the Democrats plan a "non-starter" because it hinges on tax increases, which he still refuses to accept. The GOP plan promises $600 million in new tax revenue, that it assumes will come from awesomely obvious economic growth, an idea the Dems scoff at.
Democrats aren't thrilled with their party's offer either. Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey says it has "absolutely no chance of being the law of the land" and he sees no path to a deal before the November 23 deadline.
Politico also outlines the procedural hurdles that must be overcome before then. The House only has eight work days scheduled in November, plus the Congressional Budget Office would have to score any final bargain before it can be voted on and signed by the President. That's a lot of work to do before Thanksgiving.
The only remaining hope is that the automatic triggers — $1.2 trillion in cuts, mostly to defense, that kick in immediately if no deal is reached — are still so distasteful that both sides will bite their tongues and agree to something. Boehner says it's "time to get serious" and swears he's committed to a deal, but we've heard all that before. A near total unwillingness to compromise (and a certain indifference to artificial deadlines) is the reason we got the super committee in the first place.
Of course, there's another option that seems the most likely to get bipartisan support: ignoring the triggers. Congress created them, so there's no reason they can't also undo them if everyone finds them so distasteful. (They cuts wouldn't take effect until 2013 anyway, so there'd be plenty of time work around them.) The gun to their head was meant to be an incentive, but everyone knows that it's not really loaded.
Even if it was, both parties are just as likely to let it go off as they are to budge and reach a deal. The party leaders are still talking as if some sort of compromise is inevitable, but given their track record on deal making the last few months the era of "doing the right thing" is long over. This quote from an unnamed Republican staffer sort of sums it up:
“Even as this late stage, there is no firm ground. Nobody is standing on any kind of firm ground,” said a senior House GOP leadership aide. “There is some middle ground [for a compromise]. There is some far off, maybe imagined glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel but not anything you’d want to place a bet on.”