* Low public approval ratings worry Senate, House leaders
* Top Republican leaders want super committee deal
By David Morgan and Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Oct 28 The congressional "super
committee" charged with slashing the U.S. deficit have heard
from legions of lobbyists and lawmakers bent on influencing the
outcome. Now members are getting an earful from Republican and
Democratic leaders who want them to reach a deal and help
restore voters' faith in Congress before the 2012 elections.
The panel's six Republicans and six Democrats are under
pressure to avoid a deadlock that could further anger voters
fed up with the partisan gridlock that has plagued major
legislation since President Barack Obama took office in January
2009, according to aides, analysts, lawmakers and lobbyists.
House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican, and Senate
Republican leader Mitch McConnell want a deal, figuring it
would be smart politically as well as vital to the country's
fiscal well-being, aides said.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and House Democratic
leader Nancy Pelosi make the same point.
"Knowing how important this agreement is, the message that
it will send to the world, to the markets, to the American
people (and) the confidence it will be build -- it will be a
missed opportunity if we do not do this," Pelosi told
reporters. "It behooves all of us to be open as possible."
The committee faces a Nov. 23 deadline to come up with a
package to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10
years. A deadlock would trigger automatic cuts spread evenly
between defense and domestic programs.
Recent opinion polls show public approval of Congress as
low as 9 percent, with data suggesting that Republicans and
Democrats are equally disillusioned with the inability of
lawmakers to work together.
"The super committee absolutely is in the cross-hairs. The
public would be very upset if the super committee couldn't
reach agreement. It would be another example that government
cannot function," said Frank Newport, editor-in-chief at the
Yet, for all the cheerleading from the top brass of both
parties, the two sides are still far apart.
Some Democrats have questioned the sincerity of Republicans
because of their refusal to consider tax hikes as part of any
sweeping deficit-reduction agreement. Republicans say tax
increases would undermine job growth.
FAILURE WRIT LARGE
Analysts say deadlock in the committee would likely further
disillusion Americans, already frustrated by Washington's
inability to agree on even the most simple issues. That could
contribute to voter apathy in 2012 and hit both parties hard.
Lobbyists say McConnell has been at the forefront of
behind-the-scenes efforts to reach a consensus, partly because
of his hopes of capturing the Senate in the 2012 elections.
"Republican leadership wants this process to work," said a
lobbyist. "They're starting to flex a little more muscle in
terms of trying to herd them toward some sort of consensus."
The possibility of a "grand bargain" on taxes and spending
on popular social programs came up at a meeting last week among
McConnell, Boehner and Reid, a congressional aide said.
"But it was Reid's sense that the Republicans still weren't
ready to move on (tax) revenues," the aide said. "Reid feels
it's impossible to have a deal without serious movement on
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer contends all sides must
"I'm not optimistic. I am hopeful. I hope because I think
it is absolutely essential that we succeed in producing a
product, producing a product that is a big deal," Hoyer said.