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Among Congressional Insiders, Pessimism Grows on Prospects for Super Committee

Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Co-Chairs Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, left, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., right, confer on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011, during the committee's hearing on the national debt. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

November 18, 2011

A majority of Republican respondents are still holding out hope for the committee's success, with 61 percent of them calling it "very" or "somewhat" likely.

"Call me crazy, but I remain optimistic that both sides understand the enormous stakes and know failure will be disastrous for both parties, and an agreement will be reached," said one Republican member of Congress.

"When failure is not an option, you succeed," said another. "But it may take longer than the Nov. 23 deadline. As one famous U.S. Army unit once said of itself, 'The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.'"

Only 30 percent of Democratic Congressional Insiders held a similarly optimistic view, though there was a small tick upward in the number saying success was "somewhat likely" since the question was last asked in the October 8th issue of National Journal.

"Hope springs eternal," explained one Democratic respondent simply.

But hope appears to be wearing thin. The largest change in the poll results since October came among Republican members who believe super committee success is unlikely. While 21% held that view in early October, the percentage jumped to 39% in the most recent poll.

"There doesn't appear to be enough common ground to achieve enough deficit reduction," said a Republican Insider who called a successful outcome "very unlikely."

Another Republican, who felt success was "somewhat unlikely," pointed a finger across the aisle. "Dems prefer the automatic cuts to defense over fixing our entitlements. What a shame."

Democratic members had their own fighting words.

"I hope a deal can be reached that works for everyone," said one, "but I fear the Republicans will once again abandon what's fair and reasonable for the irrational ideologues they answer to."

"I don't think there is any likelihood that Republicans on the super committee will support a balanced plan that asks for the wealthiest to pay their fair share or includes real revenue on the table," said another.

"The Republican insistence on permanently extending the Bush-era tax cuts with no practical proposal to significantly increase revenue is a deal killer," explained a third.

Even a Republican respondent who still called success "somewhat likely" acknowledged that things didn't appear to be headed in the right direction. "It's tougher to be an optimist as we approach Thanksgiving."

One Democratic Congressional Insider wasn't feeling any such ambiguity. Compared to the likelihood of super-committee success, "Hell has a better chance of freezing over."

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