Schumer prays for the deficit supercommittee to avoid the ‘horrible ax’ overhead, and calls out McCain

Deborah Hersman, Chuck Schumer and Nydia Velazquez. (Reid Pillifant)
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Senator Charles Schumer isn't ready to declare defeat for the deficit supercommittee just yet.

"Well, Nov. 23 is its deadline and if it doesn't meet its deadline, then a year from now this horrible ax of sequestration goes into effect and that's the incentive for them to meet their deadline," he said this morning. "I know they're all working. I know there are lots of disagreements on various different issues. But let's hope and pray they can come to an agreement."

With three weeks left, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction—with six Republican members and six Democrats drawn from the Senate and the House—has yet to come anywhere near a bipartisan agreement to cut more than $1.2 trillion in federal spending over 10 years.

Democrats recently released a plan to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion, which includes cuts to the growth of entitlement programs as well as more than $1 trillion in taxes to raise revenues, which Republicans promptly declared a non-starter.

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The Republican plan calls for $2.2 trillion in deficit reduction; but the plan cuts corporate and individual tax rates, and calls for $1.2 billion in spending cuts. Democrats called it a joke.

If the committee can't come to an agreement, mandatory across-the-board budget cuts go into effect, with the Defense Department facing a cut of nearly half a trillion dollars.

Asked who would be to blame if the committee can't agree, Schumer said he was "not ready to point fingers of blame right yet."

After pausing for a moment, he interrupted a reporter who was already asking the next question.

"But I would say this, without an increase in revenues as part—not all—but part of the deal, it's very hard to see how you could come to an agreement," Schumer said.

Earlier this month, Senator John McCain said he would not accede to budget cuts for the Defense Department, and floated the idea that Congress could simply repeal the mandatory sequestration, since legislators passed it in the first place.

Schumer said other areas would be hit just as hard.

"You know, the bottom line is we have a real deficit problem," he said. "The No. 1 problem in this country is jobs and the economy. But high up there on the list is deficit reduction over a 10-year period.

"Because Senator McCain now doesn't like the defense cuts, he'd like to repeal those. But many of the other cuts are just as difficult. Ask people in other areas, as well. So, there are lots of very severe cuts and the idea is to come to an agreement and cut the waste and keep the muscle."

Schumer spoke to reporters after a press conference with Rep. Nydia Velazquez and National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman about bus safety in Chinatown.