Schumer's the highest ranking member of either party to publicly predict the panel will fail. And his argument is perfectly well founded. Democrats have been explicit for weeks that they'll entertain some of the unpopular cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security that Republicans want -- but only if the GOP ponies up significant new revenue from high-income tax payers. Republicans so far have refused. And as the panel's Democratic co-chair, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), put it recently, "these concessions would only be made--and only considered--in the context of a balanced deal that doesn't just fall on the middle class and most vulnerable Americans--but that requires big corporations and the wealthiest among us to share in the sacrifices."
But Schumer's prediction cuts a different way in that it turns up the pressure on Republicans, who are already beginning to fracture over the stranglehold anti-tax activists have over the party, and who don't want to be blamed in the event that the panel gridlocks.
If there's no agreement by November 23, or if Congress doesn't pass the panel's recommendations by the end of the year, it will trigger an enforcement mechanism comprised largely of across the board cuts to Medicare providers and defense and security programs, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Those cuts would begin take effect on January 1, 2013.