Rep. Allen West I’m not going to vote for a tax increase,or go to the American people and ask them to give us more.

By ANDREW TAYLOR and DAVID ESPO for Business Week

Democrats, Republicans far apart on deficit deal.

As the nation’s debt soared past $15 trillion, congressional Republicans and Democrats struggled Wednesday to salvage a yearlong assault on federal deficits, their efforts hampered by politically charged disagreements over taxes and the future of enormously expensive government benefit programs.

The talks at a standstill, Democratic officials familiar with the work of Congress’ debt-reduction supercommittee disclosed they had floated a secret counteroffer late last week to generally accept a Republican framework for a $1.5 trillion compromise, while differing on numerous key details.

Democrats signaled a willingness to cut spending by $876 billion, including $225 billion from Medicare and $50 billion from Medicaid, these officials said, and raise tax revenue by $400 billion, far less than they had earlier demanded.

They also recommended using $700 billion in unspent funds from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for a jobs program along the lines President Barack Obama wants, plus steps to protect the upper middle class from the alternative tax and extending financing for doctors who treat Medicare patients.

The supercommittee has until Nov. 23 to approve legislation that cuts future deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over a decade. Failing that, automatic spending cuts totaling that amount would take effect beginning in 2013. That’s a result that lawmakers on both sides of the political divide — particularly defense hawks — say they oppose.

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