Schumer Says GOP’s Aversion to Tax Hikes Could Doom Super Committee

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson and Sunlen Miller report:

The Senate’s No. 3 Democrat says that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is unlikely to succeed because of a deadlock over Republican opposition to tax revenues. 

With the 12-member bipartisan committee’s Nov. 23 deadline looming, Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democrats’ primary messenger as the Senate Democratic Policy Chair, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that super committee would likely fail to strike an agreement on a plan to slice $1.5 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years “because our Republican colleagues have said no net revenues.” 

“The American people are beginning to sniff this,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “They’re beginning to sniff that the other side has dug in and is not compromising.”

In an email titled, “What’s Sen. Schumer Sniffin’?” Michael Steel, press secretary for House Speaker John Boehner, disagreed with Schumer’s contention that Republicans oppose all new revenues. 

“That is not correct,” Steel challenged. “Despite Senator Schumer’s ideological addiction to tax hikes, Republicans are working to find an agreement that works.  So, while we oppose tax hikes (because tax hikes destroy jobs – as even President Obama has acknowledged), Republicans, including Speaker Boehner, have been clear that they are not opposed to increased revenue as a result of tax reforms that lead to economic growth.” 

Steel pointed to a quote from Boehner’s interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with Christian Amanpour” to prove the GOP is open to a deficit deal that includes new revenues. 

“I believe that if we restructure our tax code, where on the corporate side and the personal side, the target would be a top rate of 25 percent, it would make our economy more competitive with the rest of the world,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told Amanpour. “It would put Americans back to work. We’d have a broader base on the tax rules, and out of that there would be real economic growth and more revenues for the federal government.” 

Boehner has said that the Democrats’ proposal for $1.3 trillion is not reasonable, although he has declined to enumerate a dollar figure that might be more amicable for Republicans. 

During the speaker’s negotiations last summer with President Obama on a so-called “ Grand Bargain,” Boehner had reportedly agreed to about $800 billion in new revenues as long as they were accompanied by fundamental reforms to entitlement programs. When the president pushed for another $400 billion in tax revenue, Boehner walked away from the talks. 

The super committee continues to meet on a daily basis as its deadline to agree to a proposal to cut $1.5 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Congress then has until Dec. 23 to pass the deal through both Houses of Congress. If a deal is not reached, $1.2 trillion in deficit savings split between Medicare and defense spending would be enacted through a sequestration mechanism. 

Sen. John McCain, the ranking member of Senate Armed Services committee, said that there may be a path for Congress to avoid sequestration, and thus evade about $600 billion in cuts to defense spending.

“We may,” McCain, R-Ariz., said. “We’ll probably know by the end of this week whether the super committee has come up with an answer, but we will be working on ways, as we already have, in the case of some $20 billion reductions in spending and finding ways to oppose impose efficiencies that we believe the Pentagon, the president and Congress could agree on.”

“Congress cannot bind the actions of future Congresses,” McCain added. “The sequestration is not engraved on golden tablets. It is a notional aspiration, and those of us and I think we’d have sufficient support to prevent those kinds of cuts to be enacted because of the impact it would have on national security.”

Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, said he preferred not to comment about what would happen if the bipartisan panel failed to strike a deal because “frankly I want sequestration and the threat of it to have an effect.”

“For me to be talking about, ‘well if there’s no deal how do we avoid the consequences of sequestration’ takes the pressure off those folks who already got plenty of pressure on them,” Levin, D-Mich., said. “But I don’t want to take the pressure off to reach a deal by talking about avoiding or eliminating the effects of sequestration if there’s no deal.”

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