Baucus Predicts Debt Panel Will Reach Deal

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – U.S. Sen. Max Baucus predicted Wednesday that the bipartisan congressional supercommittee will reach a deficit-reduction deal before Thanksgiving, but the Montana Democrat offered no details of what an agreement would look like.

The congressional panel is charged with finding $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years, or automatic cuts will go into place.

The panel reportedly has been stalled over familiar battle lines: Republicans are rejecting tax hikes, while Democrats are demanding some sort of revenue increase, perhaps through higher tax on high income homes, as part of a deal that offers significant cuts to entitlement programs.

But Baucus said Wednesday that “we will reach agreement. One way or another we will get agreement.”

He stressed that he and other Democrats are only willing to take cuts to entitlement programs “so long as the other side is willing to bend on revenue.”

The 12-member supercommittee hasn’t released details of its negotiations or proposed offers. Baucus, one of six Democrats on the panel, told reporters in a conference call Wednesday he isn’t sure what a final deal will look like because the negotiations will intensify as the deadline nears.

Publicly, leading Republicans have been very resistant to the notion of raising revenue even as part of a package that reduces deficit spending by as much as $4 trillion over the 10-year timeframe. Baucus is more confident GOP negotiators will in the end accept such a deal.

“It will probably be down to the wire, the final moment,” said Baucus of a Nov. 23 deadline to act.

Baucus, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he thinks failure to reach a deal will be a “shock” to the country, while success would instill confidence in shaky financial markets worried that policymakers can’t agree on a solution.

Baucus said he is also looking ahead to even more difficult, longer-term talks on tax reform. He said the supercommittee talks will spur those conversations.

“People really do want tax reform,” he said. “I think our code is much too complicated, it has too many loopholes. It is a mess.”

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