GUAM –Democrats on the deficit super committee rejected a new Republican proposal this week to reach a deal before the Nov. 23 deadline, prolonging congressional paralysis over Pentagon cuts that could affect the Guam military buildup.
While this latest Republican offer, submitted on Monday in Washington, would raise $300 billion in new tax revenues that Democrats have demanded for months, the Democrats nonetheless rejected it because in their analysis, the plan would produce a tax windfall for the rich and shift a bigger portion of the nation’s spending burden to the middle class.
“I have yet to see a real, credible plan that raises revenue in a significant way to bring us to a fair, balanced proposal,” Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the Democratic co-chairwoman of the panel, told reporters, according to The Washington Post.
Republicans say their latest plan to achieve the deficit savings target mandated by the August debt ceiling law shows their willingness to generate revenue through taxes. The party’s previous plan for the super committee had been criticized for protecting tax breaks for the rich and not putting enough revenue on the table.
But despite this latest setback, key members of both parties still think progress is afoot.
“The fact that some Republicans have stepped forward to talk about revenue, I think, is an invitation for Democrats to step forward and talk about entitlement reform as well as spending cuts,” a story in The Hill reported Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) saying. “Therein lies the core of an agreement,” he said.
Mr. Durbin is the second-ranking Senate Democratic leader and worked on fiscal reform as part of the Simpson-Bowles commission in 2010 and more recently, the Senate’s Gang of Six. “We need to seize this opportunity; it will not come around again,” he said. “I just encourage them, stay with it. They have only a few days left.”
The Senate’s third-ranking Republican and chairman of the Republican conference, Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), agreed with Mr. Durbin. “Republicans have put revenues on the table, Democrats have put entitlements on the table,” Mr. Alexander said. “They both need to put more of each on the table and get a result.”
Also this week, in his sternest language yet, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called for Congress to “show some leadership” in the deficit reduction proceedings. He said any failure by Congress to produce solution would be a failure of leadership. The devastating across-the-board sequestration that would be triggered “is like shooting yourself in the head,” he said during a speech at the National Guard’s Joint Senior Leaders Conference in Maryland.
“I have said to members of Congress, ‘Look, my friends. I have men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line to sacrifice for this country,'” the Secretary said. “‘You sure as hell can sacrifice and provide a little leadership to get the solution we need in order to solve this problem.'”
Mr. Panetta went on to say that the Department of Defense was united streamlining the defense budget to meet fiscal pressures. He talked of preserving the strength of the force while scouring the budget to find efficiencies, duplications and programs that must be cut.
Deficit cuts would take effect in 2013, but uncertainty over their magnitude has clouded the outlook and stunted progress for Guam’s multi-billion-dollar military buildup and the realignment of the III Marine Expeditionary Force to Guam from Okinawa. Lawmakers on the bipartisan deficit super committee have until Nov. 23 to present their deficit reduction plan to Congress, and Congress must enact the plan before Christmas or risk triggering sequestration.
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