With less than seven full days left before its deadline, the deficit-cutting "super committee" appears to be at an impasse, now focusing on how far Democrats are willing to go to roll back entitlement spending.
The six Republicans on the 12-member deficit-reduction committee have already offered what they say amounts to $250 billion in increased tax revenues - a risky political move because it violates an antitax pledge that most GOP lawmakers have signed. Now, they say, it's time for Democrats to take comparable political risks on entitlements.
But for Democrats, support for entitlements is as much of a litmus test as tax cuts are for Republicans, and the super committee Democrats' rank-and-file colleagues, as well as powerful outside groups, are turning on the heat to resist entitlement cuts.
So far, the Democrats don't appear to be budging. Sen. Patty Murray (D) of Washington, who cochairs the panel, said Thursday that Democrats are still waiting for Republicans to make further concessions on revenue, or tax hikes.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats have shown a capacity to reform entitlements when they cut $500 billion in Medicare spending as part of the 2010 health-care reform. But "if the plan is to extend the Bush tax cuts and to repeal the Medicare guarantee for our seniors, well, that's not balanced and that's a place we cannot go," she said at a press briefing on Thursday.
Individual Democrats on the panel, most notably Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, have discussed the prospect of raising the eligibility age for Medicare or charging more to those who can afford it, but only if Republicans agree to more robust tax hikes, according to unconfirmed accounts of the deliberations.