Mired in tax debate, super committee members try to stave off automatic cuts

With just 10 days to go before the deadline for the congressional “super committee” to make a deal, members remain hung up on tax and entitlement reform even as automatic across-the-board cuts loom.

At the moment, Republicans and Democrats are divided by their respective plans, with each offering a mixture of spending cuts and tax revenue increases. Republicans have offered a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction package with roughly $750 billion in spending cuts over the next decade and a $300 billion tax proposal mostly comprised of deduction eliminations. Democrats have offered to trim $2 trillion, with their proposal calling for an almost equal mix of spending cuts and tax increases. The committee was assigned to come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit savings.

Attention now has turned to other courses of action available to the committee to try and avoid the “trigger mechanism,” a fail-safe that would result in deep military and across-the-board cuts if the deal isn’t made.

Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the panel’s Republican co-chair, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that super committee may punt some of the decisions about deficit reduction to individual committees — “a two-step process,” as he described it. In that scenario, the super committee would set the amount of increased tax revenue to be met, and individual congressional committees would then draft legislation to meet it.

The chairmen of the relevant committees—the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee—have said that they would accept that arrangement, according to reporting this morning from the New York Times.

But even if no deal is agreed to and the “trigger” is pulled, there’s still reason to believe the heavy cuts it calls for will be avoided.

The trigger’s cuts do not go into effect until January, 2013, so Congress would have a year to legislate their reversal. That would likely “launch a heavy lobbying effort on K Street, where defense firms in particular would be eager to prevent automatic cuts,” according to The Hill.Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) addressed the possibility on “Fox News Sunday,” saying, “In the very, very unfortunate event that we don’t [make a deal] I think it’s very likely that Congress would reconsider the configuration.”

President Obama has told the committee that it needs to “bite the bullet,” and has floated the possibility that he may block any attempt to create a workaround from next week’s Thanksgiving deadline.