WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key member of a stalemated congressional panel urged Democrats Saturday to join an attempt by his fellow Republicans to craft a deal to cut the U.S. deficit before next week's deadline.
"We have what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pass legislation that will generate millions of jobs, create a simpler, fairer tax system with lower rates for everyone and put our government on a path toward fiscal sanity," said Republican Senator Patrick Toomey.
Toomey's remarks, in his party's weekly radio address, amounted to a plug for how Republicans on the 12-member "super committee" on deficit reduction would draft a deal by a deadline of midnight Wednesday (12 a.m. EDT).
Democrats have rejected Toomey's approach, complaining it relies too much on spending cuts and needs far more in the way of tax hikes on the wealthy.
After nearly three months of talks, time is running out for the panel's six Democrats and six Republicans to agree on how to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
Doubts are growing that the panel will get there. Failure will trigger automatic spending cuts.
Financial markets and voters hope for a deal to slow the growth of government debt that last week topped $15 trillion.
They are also looking for signs that a sharply divided Congress is finally ready to work together on one of the nation's most difficult issues.
"The hour is late," Toomey said. "By law, our work on this committee must be completed this coming week. But I remain hopeful that we can meet our goal."
Despite Toomey's words of urgency, little in the way of negotiations was expected this weekend, aides said.
But several committee members, including Toomey, planned to be on the Sunday TV talk shows.
Toomey won a Senate seat just last year with the help of the anti-Washington Tea Party movement and quickly emerged as a key player on the "super committee" that is packed with congressional veterans.
While long a stalwart of Republican opposition to any tax hikes, Toomey offered a plan that backers said would generate $300 billion in new revenue.
Democrats were encouraged that Toomey put tax hikes on the table but rejected his proposal as woefully inadequate.
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by John O'Callaghan)