Dead on Arrival? Congress Divided on Obama’s Plan to Raise Taxes

Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Congressional Republicans lashed out  against  President Obama’s revamped plan to reduce the nation’s deficit, criticizing him for “political posturing” and “undermining” bipartisan negotiations on deficit reduction with a “partisan” proposal, while Democratic lawmakers commended the president for offering “a serious approach” that creates jobs “in a fiscally responsible way.”

Republicans said the president’s plan would raise taxes on both small businesses and  private capital, and by declining to support structural changes to entitlements, ignores warnings from the financial markets about the country’s debt crisis, leaving the U.S. vulnerable to further credit downgrades.

In a written statement following the president’s remarks from the White House Rose Garden Monday morning, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called out  Obama for lacking leadership, expressing his disappointment that the president continues to fight for tax increases on job creators.

“Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership. The Joint Select Committee is engaged in serious work to tackle a serious problem: the debt crisis that is making it harder to get our economy growing and create more American jobs. Unfortunately, the President has not made a serious contribution to its work today,” Boehner stated. “This administration’s insistence on raising taxes on job creators, and its reluctance to take the steps necessary to strengthen our entitlement programs are the reasons the president and I were not able to reach an agreement previously, and it is evident today that these barriers remain.”

As the president outlined his proposal, the White House warned that he would veto any final deficit reduction package that made  cuts to Medicare without bringing about  tax increases on those in wealthy income brackets, and corporations. The bulk of the savings in the president’s plan comes  from $1.5 trillion through new taxes for high-income earners, and $580 billion in cuts to entitlement programs.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the Republican co-chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, said that “by issuing a veto threat as [deficit reduction] talks have begun in earnest, the president is again undermining the work of the Joint Select Committee.”

“What the president describes as spending cuts appears, at best, to be a slight reduction in the unsustainable growth of the government budget that’s occurring on his watch,” Hensarling said in a statement. “House Republicans put in our budget fundamental tax reform, and I hope the joint committee can work together to begin reforming our tax code, making it fairer, flatter, simpler and more competitive to create jobs.”

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., blasted Boehner for injecting his opinions into the committee’s deliberations in such a “public fashion” during a speech at the Economic Club of Washington.

“We have 12 people who are doing their upmost so that we don’t have sequestration,” Reid said Thursday. “I am disappointed that Speaker Boehner would get involved with this Super Committee in a public fashion. I don’t think he should do that. I am not going to do that.”

Democrats across the aisle praised the president for striking a balanced approach to deficit reduction, and said his guidance was welcomed at the “Table of 12.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., co-chair of the Joint Select Committee, called the president’s proposal “a serious approach to tackling the deficit and creating jobs” and said the president’s input “is certainly welcome as this Committee works on a balanced and bipartisan plan that can pass through Congress and get signed into law by the president.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,  credited Obama for outlining “a bold and balanced plan” that she believes would reduce the deficit while promoting jobs and economic growth.

“By calling for reforms that will ensure that all Americans contribute their fair share, and by strengthening Medicare, the president is ensuring that we aren’t balancing our budget on the backs of the middle class and seniors,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The president has put forward proposals that would create jobs and do so in a fiscally responsible way, while we address our long-term deficit. We must get to work putting the American people back to work.”

The so-called Super Committee, which began its quest to identify at least $1.5 trillion in savings, is set to meet next on Sept. 22. Tom Barthold, the chief of staff at the Joint Committee on Taxation, is set to testify on revenue options and reforming the tax code.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., one of six Republican members of the exclusive debt panel, said the president’s strategy “seems more defined by political posturing” through recycled tax increase proposals that some Democrats have publicly opposed.

“With the Select Committee’s deadline looming [Nov. 23], we do not have time to waste on political games and pushing big tax increases that will only make our economy weaker for all Americans,” Toomey said. “I remain firmly committed to working with my fellow members of the Select Committee to produce a proposal that reduces our deficits and encourages economic growth and job creation.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Budget Committee and one of six Democrats on the debt committee, said the president’s plan is “a commonsense approach” to kick-start the economic recovery and put in place a balanced plan to cut the deficit over the long term.

“Today [President Obama] laid out the case for putting our fiscal house in order by making difficult cuts and also asking millionaires and billionaires to pay at least the same effective tax rate as many of those who work for them,” Van Hollen said. “President Obama’s proposals are a welcome contribution to the Joint Committee’s ongoing work and deserve serious consideration.”