With Supercommittee Failing, Another Debt Showdown Looms

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Supercommittee meets in Washington. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)Photo: Alex Wong/2011 Getty Images

Last-ditch negotiations are still under way this weekend to try to salvage a floundering supercommittee that may declare defeat as soon as tomorrow, the Washington Post reports. Such a failure could well mean automatic and draconian cuts to government spending, including a 30 percent drop in Medicare payments to doctors. Though Republicans had in recent weeks publicly agreed to new revenues — no small matter for an increasingly hard-line "no tax" GOP — and softened their stance on the big three entitlement programs, it seems the two sides were still unable to agree on a top-line number or how to reach it. Parallel discussions between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner have also sputtered, even though they were only shooting for about $600 billion in deficit savings, as opposed to the $1.2 trillion demanded of the supercommittee.

To try to keep debt politicking to a minimum, Politico reports, Republicans and Democrats are discussing issuing "a joint statement announcing that the panel made progress, but was unable to resolve the differences after months of talks." While that meek spirit of bipartisanship is, um, commendable, the fact remains that Washington and Congress remain deadlocked between two parties unwilling (or unable) to tackle the mounting debt problem — a fact of which most Americans are all too well aware, going by Congress's single-digit approval ratings.

This failure scenario may, however, signal good news for the Obama reelection campaign, as it tries to shift voter rage from the president to this dysfunctional Congress. But these diverging interests — Obama as president vs. Obama as candidate — are already inciting a war of words, with several leading Republicans pointing an accusatory finger at Obama, namely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Mr. No Taxes himself Grover Norquist. Looks like we may be headed for a nasty reenactment of the eleventh-hour debt ceiling debacle after all — exactly what the supercommittee was designed to avoid.