House Budget Chairman: War Surtax a No-Go

By Lindsey Ellerson

Dec 1, 2009 2:17pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: President Obama is coming under increasing pressure from Democrats to find a way to pay for the war in Afghanistan, with House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey telling ABC’s Jonathan Karl recently that it’s time to consider a special “war surtax.” But the concept does not enjoy wide support on Capitol Hill — at least not yet. On ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today, House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt said he thinks a new tax is the wrong way to cope with an additional cost expected to be between $25 billion and $30 billion. “Somewhere down the road we may have to confront this issue, the cost of this deployment and what it does to the deficit. But we don’t want to raise taxes — particularly a surcharge on income taxes — in the midst of a bad recession,” said Spratt, D-S.C. The additional costs, Spratt said, can be covered in part by the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. “Listen, I’m concerned about the national debt,” he said. “This is an incremental addition to it that I hope we can offset in the foreseeable future. One offset we will have occurring is, as we withdraw troops from Iraq, there will be the diminution of the cost of that commitment that we can use in turn for this commitment. And so if that will occur on schedule we will have those advantages in the budget.” Spratt, who also serves as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he’s poised to support the president’s new strategy, though he acknowledged deep concerns among Democrats in Congress. “There’s no question that there’s skepticism and there’s concern. But nevertheless, when we voted to undertake this mission, there was only one vote against it in the House of Representatives — both parties. And now we got to see it through. And the president is doing some things in his speech tonight … that I think the American people will largely approve of. For example … he’s committing himself to an exit strategy, exit ramp so that certain benchmarks have to be made or we’ll be an early out.” Spratt also said he doesn’t believe at this point that his home-state governor, Mark Sanford, R-S.C., should be impeached and removed from office. “I don’t think anybody should be lightly impeached. So I have reservations about impeaching the governor or anyone else except for very serious breaches of the law,” he said. Click HERE to watch our full interview with Rep. Spratt. We also checked in with Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who outlined one of the many challenges facing the president tonight: “First he has to convince the American public that this has been his position all along,” Madden said. “If we know anything about this president he has an incredible ability to use his personality to galvanize some public support. Well, this will be a test of that.” You can view our discussion with Madden HERE.

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