WASHINGTON -- With the deadline for a supercommittee deficit-reduction deal closing in, more than 150 members of Congress from both political parties made a renewed push Wednesday for a $4 trillion package.
But that doesn't appear likely to happen, since the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is struggling even to come up with its mandated goal of at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee urged the panel members to compromise.
"This is about more than money. It's about whether the president and Congress can competently govern," Alexander said.
With a week to go before they must vote, lawmakers on the supercommittee engaged in another day of private meetings and public bickering.
Co-chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said he'd be willing to consider more revenue, but not until Democrats offered more serious steps to cut entitlement programs such as Medicare.
"What I've had yet to see is a (plan) that fundamentally solves the problem," he said, adding that he would not rule out any option. Democrats remained huddled in private meetings discussing strategy.
If the 12-member panel of six Democrats and six Republicans does not succeed, or Congress rejects its proposals, automatic across-the-board spending cuts -- half from defense and half from domestic programs -- would be triggered starting in 2013. Social Security and programs for lower-income people would be exempt, and Medicare cuts would be limited to providers, not beneficiaries.
The bipartisan coalition, which includes some leaders from both parties, is trying to give the deal makers a push. At least 45 senators and 102 members of the House of Representatives pledged support for the bigger goal. Any package needs 51 Senate and 218 House votes to succeed.
"The time is now for the supercommittee to be brave and go big," said Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., one of the effort's organizers.