Senate GOP short of unanimity on taxes

On Wednesday, 100 U.S. House members — 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans — signed a letter to the super-committee, calling for more ambitious debt reduction. It was notable for key reason: GOP signatories broke with party dogma and endorsed new revenue, which could, at least in theory, include some tax increases.

“All options,” they said, “must be on the table.” Since that didn’t come with a “except tax increases” asterisk, it was evidence of modest progress.

That was Wednesday. Yesterday, the super-committee received a very different kind of letter.

A group of 33 Republican senators sent a letter to members of the panel insisting on “no net tax increase.”

The letter, circulated by Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said that any deficit-reduction deal should also “balance our budget within 10 years, place entitlements on a path to fiscal solvency” and include “comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates and promotes economic growth.” […]

Democrats said the letter was a serious setback for efforts to strike a bipartisan deal to achieve the goal of reducing deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Democrats say any deal must include spending cuts and increases in tax revenues, as recommended by fiscal experts who testified this week at a hearing of the panel, known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

That would involve some kind of compromise, with both sides making concessions. Democrats are willing to do this; Republicans aren’t. It’s that simple.

What’s more, remember when Sens. Tom Coburn, Saxby Chambliss, and Mike Crapo were part of that Gang of Six project that opened the door to tax increases? Well, forget it — all three signed yesterday’s letter, demanding that the super-committee not raise any tax on anyone by any amount.

The end result was a letter endorsed by 33 Senate Republicans who, in effect, believe a debt-reduction deal should give the GOP everything it wants, without any compromise at all.

And some still wonder who’s to blame for the breakdown of the legislative process.

There was, however, a pleasant surprise: there are 47 Senate Republicans and 33 of them signed the hard-line letter. That means, of course, that 14 Senate Republicans were unwilling to go this far, at least at this point.

At this point, I’ll take silver linings where I can find them.

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