Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) gave his blessing on Thursday to the series of tax reforms called for by President Obama's fiscal commission.
DeMint, an influential conservative, said he was intrigued by the tax proposals made on Wednesday by the fiscal panel, which call for lower overall rates, but vastly reduced deductions.
"As I look at this proposal, one of the parts that intrigues me the most is the reform of the tax code," DeMint said on "The Early Show" on CBS.
"A simplification of the taxes, elimination of all deductions, lowering the tax rates for individuals and businesses," he explained. "I think this would do more to reduce the debt and improve the economy and increase employment in the economy — a lot of things we would do if we would focus on this."
DeMint is not a member of the 18-member commission, but his support could be critical to advancing any of the panel's proposals, should they make their way through Congress. The South Carolina senator is seen as the de-facto leader of a bloc of freshman conservative senators whom he helped elect this fall. That group's support could be key to passing tax reforms, and DeMint's support could lead other conservatives to get on board.
A spokesman for DeMint emphasized, though, that the conservative hasn't endorsed all the tax proposals.
"Senator DeMint appreciates the commission starting a real discussion about the debt crisis, however he has not endorsed all of the aspects of the plan’s spending and tax proposals," said Wesley Denton, a spokesman for DeMint. "The final report has not been released, but the initial summary while rightly moving toward a flat tax also includes troubling tax increases that amount to nearly $1 trillion in new death taxes, gas taxes, and other tax hikes. Our debt crisis is the result of a high spending problem, not a low tax problem.”
Republicans had been seen as likely to balk at any proposal that remotely resembles a tax hike, especially in the midst of a heated congressional debate over the fate of the Bush tax cuts.
DeMint stopped short of backing all the recommendations, which are set to receive a vote from the 18 commissioners on Friday. If 14 of them back the plan, it would head to Congress for an up-or-down vote.
"Some other parts of it I don't like, but I want to consider the whole thing," he said. "I'm frankly appreciative we've started the whole process."
—Updated 11:49 a.m.