The so-called congressional "supercommittee" charged with recommending how to reduce federal spending by just 3 percent has failed, its 12 members agree.
Now it remains to be seen whether a bipartisan group of lawmakers, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., as its leaders, can stage a rescue.
For weeks, 12 members of the House of Representatives and Senate have been negotiating over the budget deficit. Their work began this summer, after Congress and President Barack Obama were unable to come to agreement on earlier deficit-reduction suggestions.
In order to placate tens of millions of Americans disgusted over lack of progress on the budget, Congress gave the "supercommittee" until the end of last week to recommend ways to cut $1.2 trillion in deficit spending during a 10-year period. That is $120 billion a year - or about 3 percent of total government spending.
Legislation authorizing the project stipulates that if the panel fails, supposedly automatic spending cuts will be triggered. Those reductions are harsh in some ways; defense experts have warned they would cripple the U.S. military.
And that is precisely why they will not be allowed to go into effect.
There is nothing "automatic" about the cuts. Congress ordered them, and Congress can revoke them.
In other words, we are back where we started last summer.
Well, not quite.
When legislation authorizing the "supercommittee" was approved, the national debt was approximately $14.3 trillion. It now has topped $15 trillion - an increase of $700 billion.
"Failure cannot be accepted," Manchin said. He is absolutely right.
Far from being satisfied with the $1.2 trillion in cuts the "supercommittee" was unable to find conservatives - again, both Democrats and Republicans - want more.
Manchin and Kirk are asking fellow senators to approve a "Sense of the Senate" resolution calling for $4 trillion in cuts during a 10-year period.
"It can't be about, 'Are you a good Democrat or a good Republican?' You have to put your politics aside," Manchin urged. He added more leadership from Obama is needed.
That observation is right - but total failure is on the horizon. We urge every effort to form a coalition with the power and determination to avoid that.