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Deficit Panel’s Last-Ditch Effort Sputters

Seven members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction met this afternoon in a last-ditch effort to strike a deal, but sources close to the negotiations indicated that agreement is likely still out of reach.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) hosted Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in his personal office today. When the bipartisan meeting broke, the Republican contingent then traveled up one floor in the Russell Senate Office Building to continue talks in Portman’s office.

The super committee probably needs to have a package settled by tonight in order to have it scored by the Congressional Budget Office — as required by law — in time for a final vote by the Wednesday deadline. Sources had indicated earlier today that they expected a joint statement from the panel’s co-chairmen admitting an impasse, likely at the close of American markets. But publicly, Members had incentive to appear as if they were trying until the last minute.

“We have a few more hours,” Baucus said to a flood of reporters as he left Kerry’s suite, adding that Members were still working “to try to find a solution.”

The policy gaps between the two sides, especially on taxes and entitlements, are still thought to be too wide to bridge, and Democrats last week seemed disinclined to vote on a smaller package to lessen the effect of the $1.2 trillion across-the-board automatic cuts that will begin in January 2013 if the super committee produces no alternative.

Baucus said there would continue to be meetings. Murray echoed this statement, saying that Members were “still talking.”

At the end of the day, it might all be for show.

“Though talks continue, there is no sense of progress,” said a source with knowledge of the discussions.

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