A special US government deficit-reduction "super-committee" appears on the brink of admitting failure in its quest to stop up at least $1.2 trillion in government red ink over the coming decade.
The bipartisan 12-member panel sputtered to a close on Monday after two months of talks in which key members and top congressional leaders never got close to bridging a fundamental divide over how much to raise taxes.
The budget deficit has forced the government to borrow $0.36 of every $1 it spent last year.
In a series of television interviews, not a single panelist seemed optimistic on Sunday about any last-minute breakthrough, and aides said any remaining talks had broken off.
The White House, however, continued to insist that lawmakers finish the task they were assigned.
"Avoiding accountability and kicking the can down the road is how Washington got into this deficit problem in the first place, so Congress needs to do its job here and make the kind of tough choices to live within its means that American families make every day," Amy Brundage, White House spokeswoman, said.
The panel officially has until Wednesday to approve a deficit-slashing plan. Under its rules, however, any plan would have to be unveiled 48 hours in advance.
Instead, it appeared the senate co-chairs Patty Murray, a Democrat, and Jeb Hensarling, a Republican, would issue a statement declaring the panel's work at an end, aides said.
The two sides had never gotten particularly close, at least in the official exchanges of offers that were leaked to the media.