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CBS: 'Root of Stalemate' Was GOP Push to 'Cut' Taxes

On Monday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Nancy Cordes listed one and only one sticking point in the failure of the so-called "supercommittee" to reach a deal, and that was, she said, how "Republicans on the supercommittee were pushing to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for everyone."

And only one politician, Democratic Senator and supercommitee member John Kerry, was permitted to frame the story for CBS viewers. "This is not a tax cutting committee. This is a deficit reduction committee," Kerry asserted. "And we do not believe that the wealthiest people in America should get another tax cut."

Actually, most Republicans thought the supercommittee was a budget-cutting committee, not a "deficit reduction committee" that would keep oversized government budgets intact while raising taxes to cover the red ink generated over the past three years.

And, as for the idea that Republicans wanted to "cut taxes," Republicans had proposed raising tax revenues by $300 billion, not a tax cut by any common-sense definition.

Cordes also referred the planned "automatic across-the-board spending cuts of up to 10 percent to nearly every government program," even though the "cuts" would be merely reductions in the rate of increase in federal spending, with the overall national debt slated to rise from a current $15 trillion to more than $23 trillion in less than ten years even with the "cuts."

A transcript of the key portions of the November 21 CBS Evening News (video can be viewed here, at CBSNews.com):


SCOTT PELLEY: Tonight, they couldn't get it done. The supercommittee gives up on cutting the deficit. Nancy Cordes and Anthony Mason on what happens now to payroll taxes, unemployment benefits, and more....Good evening. Both parties - Republicans and Democrats - failed today in the most basic function of government, managing the budget. It started six months ago when Congress refused to raise the nation's borrowing limit until budget cuts were made. The nation came so close to defaulting on its debts that the federal government lost its top-notch credit rating. The borrowing limit was raised in return for the creation of the so-called supercommittee of the Congress, charged with finding more than a trillion dollars in budget cuts by this week. Today, the supercommittee announced it had failed. There's a lot at stake. We begin our coverage with Nancy Cordes on Capitol Hill. Nancy?

NANCY CORDES: Scott, the truth is that the supercommittee never came close to reaching a deal, despite hundreds of hours of closed-door meetings. This evening, the leaders of the supercommitee released this paper statement, saying the nation's fiscal crisis needs to be addressed; they just couldn't do it. Supercommittee members took a break from finger-pointing today for a last-minute flurry of negotiations that went nowhere.

Democratic Representative CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: We're still talking about different ideas.

CORDES: A fight over taxes was at the root of the stalemate, just as it was when President Obama and Speaker Boehner tried to broker a similar agreement to cut the debt this summer. Republicans on the supercommittee were pushing to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for everyone, while Democrats like Massachusetts Senator John Kerry wanted to let the tax cuts for top earners expire next year.

Democratic Senator JOHN KERRY: This is not a tax cutting committee. This is a deficit reduction committee. And we do not believe that the wealthiest people in America should get another tax cut.

CORDES: The supercommittee was seen as the best chance to break through the partisan gridlock gripping Washington. It was created after Congress clashed over raising the debt limit this summer, a standoff that triggered a downgrade of U.S. debt by Standard & Poor's.

Democratic Representative JIM McGOVERN (July 30): This process has become a joke. It is a disgrace.

CORDES: Senate leaders gave the supercommittee unprecedented powers and packed it with senators and congressmen who know how to make a deal, in an attempt to cut a modest $1.2 trillion from the nation's $15 trillion debt. Budget expert Maya MacGuineas says both sides made some sacrifices, but couldn't meet halfway.

MAYA MacGUINEAS: Members of the supercommittee put good ideas out there. They pushed themselves out of their comfort zone in order to come up with a deal, and the fact that it looks like they couldn't make it across the finish line is just sad. It's just a sad moment where they could have done something great and they fell short.

CORDES: The failure of the supercommittee triggers automatic across-the-board spending cuts of up to 10 percent to nearly every government program in 13 months. It's an outcome nobody wanted, and it was supposed to be the sword hanging over the heads of the supercommittee to force them, Scott, to make a deal.

PELLEY: Nancy, stay with us just a minute. You told us last week that some in Congress are already talking about changing the law and lifting those mandatory cuts. Well, late today at the White House the President weighed in on that idea.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one.

PELLEY: No easy off-ramps. Nancy, how is that playing on Capitol Hill?

CORDES: Well, it's not at all unexpected, Scott. In fact, congressional leaders from both parties reiterated their support for keeping those automatic spending cuts in place as well unless, they say, members of Congress can actually get together and figure out a more sensible way to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit by the time those spending cuts are supposed to go into in effect in 13 months.

PELLEY: Nancy, thanks very much.


- Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.