Republican senators trying to hash out a bipartisan deal to reduce the deficit will refuse any significant tax hikes, Sen. Tom CoburnTom CoburnDon't be fooled: Carper and Norton don't fight for DC Coburn: Trump's tweets aren't presidential The road ahead for America’s highways MORE (R-Okla.) said Thursday.
Coburn, one of six senators involved in behind-the-scenes talks considered crucial if there is to be a deal, said that while it was possible that some voters could see their tax burdens rise, the “Gang of Six” talks would not result in a significant tax hike.
Coburn’s comments suggest the senators are unlikely to agree to end the Bush tax rates for families with annual income above $250,0000, a priority for the White House.
President Obama wants a long-term deal to reduce the deficit to do away with tax rates for the wealthy put in place by former President George W. Bush. After agreeing to extend those tax rates in December, Obama said he would refuse to renew them again.
“We cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society,” Obama said in a speech last week laying out his vision for cutting the deficit.
The extension of all of the Bush rates in December is a major driver of the deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Polls suggest voter support for raising taxes on the wealthy, but Republicans are under heavy pressure from conservatives to include no tax increases as part of a deficit-cutting deal.
The House last week approved a budget that would lower the deficit by $5.8 trillion in the next decade. The proposal from Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanRepublicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown Trump: 'No doubt' we'll make a deal on healthcare Overnight Finance: WH wants to slash billions | Border wall funding likely on hold | Wells Fargo to pay 0M over unauthorized accounts | Dems debate revamping consumer board MORE (R-Wis.) would reform the tax code, lowering individual and corporate tax rates to boot. It would lower the deficit in part by making significant reforms to Medicare and Medicaid that have been the subject of political attacks by Obama.
In the Gang of Six talks, Coburn has been working for months with Republican Sens. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (Ga.) and Mike CrapoMike CrapoLawmakers call for pilot program to test for energy sector vulnerabilities Senators war over Wall Street during hearing for Trump's SEC pick Overnight Finance: Biz groups endorse Trump's Labor pick | New CBO score coming before health bill vote | Lawmakers push back on public broadcasting cuts MORE (Idaho) and Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinRepublicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown No. 2 Senate Democrat opposes Trump's Supreme Court pick The Hill’s Whip List: 30 Dems are against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (Ill.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Mark WarnerMark WarnerTop Senate Intel Dem: Nunes's meeting on WH grounds 'more than suspicious' Sunday shows preview: Aftermath of failed healthcare bill Devin Nunes has jeopardized the oversight role of Congress MORE (Va.). Because of the bipartisan nature of the group, their work is considered one of the best hopes for reaching an accord on deficit and debt reduction.
The plan is due to be released sometime in early May, and Coburn emphasized Thursday that the Gang of Six hadn't reached any agreement at this point.
The Oklahoma conservative suggested that the Gang of Six is examining a kind of tax reform similar to the type suggested by Obama's fiscal commission, in which marginal rates are lowered but many tax credits are eliminated from the code.
"Will some people pay increased taxes? I'm sure they will," Coburn said of the resulting tax burden from such a plan.
Whether such a plan would be palatable to conservatives, including many of the groups who have pushed GOP lawmakers into taking "no new taxes" pledges over the years, is one of the big variables facing the Gang of Six.
Coburn defended such a proposal, which is still hypothetical at this point, on free market grounds. Tax credits, he said, allows for a system where "winners and losers [are] picked from Washington." Eliminating tax credits and lowering rates would allow for a more efficient allocation of capital, Coburn argued.
Coburn and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist have battled on this point in recent weeks, with Norquist arguing that the elimination of a tax break, if it is not coupled with a corresponding tax cut, would break the tax pledge many lawmakers have taken.
—This story was initially posted at 11 a.m.