WASHINGTON - After weeks of negotiating in secrecy, the "supercommittee" on deficit reduction has allowed its proposals to spill into the open in a display of partisanship that shows how far apart Congress remains in striking a deal.
Republicans offered a $2.2 trillion package of steep spending cuts but gave no ground on their resistance to new taxes, congressional aides said Thursday. The proposal was a counter to the "grand bargain" that Democrats put on the table - up to $3 trillion in spending cuts and new taxes on wealthier households.
The GOP response proposed cutting corporate and individual tax rates to spur economic growth and bring in $200 billion in new revenue. They also proposed selling government assets and slashing $1.2 trillion from spending, including cuts to Medicare beneficiaries and providers.
With less than a month remaining to reach an agreement, both sides dismissed the other's offer as a non-starter. A Democratic aide called the GOP plan "a joke." Republicans said Democrats' insistence on new taxes was "not a serious proposal." Talks could continue over the weekend.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the minority leader, said the GOP offer "doesn't sound like anything that would even be in the league."
House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, acknowledged Thursday that the panel was heading into "the real tough time."
The 12-member committee of Republicans and Democrats is racing the clock to produce a compromise before its Thanksgiving deadline. Failure to cut at least $1.2 trillion from deficits over the next decade would force mandatory cuts, split evenly between defense and non-defense spending, that both sides want to avoid.
The public airing can be taken as either the first signs of serious negotiations or a rerun of the partisan stalemate that blocked deficit-reduction efforts this year.
Earlier talks between President Obama and Boehner broke down this summer largely over the GOP resistance to new taxes.
Democrats have been willing to put cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid health entitlement programs on the table, but only if Republicans will meet them part way and agree to rein in tax breaks for upper-income earners.
Democrats had proposed cutting up to $3 trillion from deficits through increased taxes on the wealthy and trims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It was those proposed cuts that drew immediate criticism from groups advocating for seniors and the poor.
Republicans have steadily resisted new taxes. Most Republican lawmakers have signed an anti-tax pledge from the influential conservative activist Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.