Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Sunday said Democrats were prepared to allow the expiration of all George W. Bush-era tax rates to take place if Republican lawmakers objected to raising taxes on the wealthiest earners.
“We can't accept an unfair deal that piles on the middle class and tell them they have to support it. We have to make sure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share,” said Murray on ABC's “This Week.”
Murray said one option would be to let the lower rates expire across the board and then return to the table next year with new talks on a tax-cut package.
The Washington senator is likely to become chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, and previously served on the congressional “supercommitee” that failed to finalize a deficit-reduction plan, which will trigger sequestration cuts in January 2013 unless Congress acts to block them.
Economists warn that the tax-rate rises and automatic spending cuts could bring another recession, and both parties have said they hope to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
“Look, no one wants to go off the fiscal cliff. But a fair deal is absolutely critical here,” said Murray on Sunday.
President Obama and Democrats have called for raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for the deficit-reduction plan, while Republicans want to extend all the Bush-era rates.
The president will meet with lawmakers next week to begin talks on a deal and said he was “encouraged” last week when House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Republicans were open to new revenues in any such deal.
Appearing with Murray, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) praised Boehner. “I thought he showed great leadership by saying that revenues need to be on the table,” said Chambliss.
But Chambliss cautioned that new revenues needed to be matched with measures reforming entitlement programs and said the Bowles-Simpson model could provide a template for negotiators.
“Bowles-Simpson said, look, eliminate all these tax credits and tax deductions. You can generate somewhere 1 to 1.2 trillion [dollars] in additional revenue. You can actually lower tax rates by doing that,” said Chambliss.