A special U.S. committee charged with reducing the federal deficit is entering a critical week for reaching a deal but has not considered extending its Nov. 23 deadline, a panel member said Monday.
"Every member understands that time is running out," House
Democrat Chris Van Hollen, a member of the "super committee," said in an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "This is the moment to get it (a deal) done if we're going to get it done.
"The clock's ticking. We've got just a little over two weeks and that includes the time that it will take to put the final touches on any agreement that we might be able to reach," he said.
The bipartisan super committee, consisting of six Republicans and six Democrats from the House and Senate, has the task of identifying at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next 10 years before Nov. 23.
But there have been few signs that committee members can break through partisan differences over taxes and entitlement programs, raising the prospect of a deadlock that would usher in automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending.
"I don't think anyone's going to ask for an extension," Van Hollen said. "More time won't get us there unless we're really, really close. But, no, we're not talking about an extension."
Van Hollen said one factor driving super committee members to reach a deal was growing public anger over political gridlock in Washington, which has driven job approval ratings for Congress to all-time lows in recent opinion polls.
Public disaffection for Washington could have serious consequences in next year's election campaigns for the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.
A November Reuters/Ipsos poll showed a candidate's efforts to reduce U.S. budget deficits would be "very important" to how nearly two-thirds of voters cast their ballots next year.
"(There's) the feeling Congress can't get anything done. People would like to try and prove them wrong for the good of the country," Van Hollen said.
A deadlock could also affect financial markets if investors and rating agencies conclude Washington is too engrossed in bipartisan bickering to get its fiscal house in order.
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