Kerry blames Tea Party for downgrade, says Senate GOP willing to raise taxes

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Sunday blamed the Tea Party for causing Standard & Poor’s to lower the nation’s credit rating.

Kerry argued that Republicans in the Senate were willing to raise tax revenues as part of a long-term deal to reduce the federal deficit, making reference to the Senate’s Gang of Six plan, which attracted bipartisan support.

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“I believe this is without question the Tea Party downgrade,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in a Sunday interview. “This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do a bigger deal.”

Kerry said a bipartisan group of senators were willing to accept “a mix of reductions and reforms in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid but also recognized that we needed to do some revenue.”


A framework unveiled last month by three Democratic senators and three Republican senators would have raised about $1 trillion in new tax revenues to reduce the debt by closing a variety of special tax breaks.

Republicans such as Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Mike Johanns (Neb.) endorsed the proposal.

The effort moved in parallel with negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that White House officials say came close to achieving a broad deal.

Kerry said Obama repeatedly offered to Boehner the possibility of striking a grand bargain to cut more than $4 trillion from the deficit and Boehner refused.


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“Some in the Republican Party, and [Senate Republican Leader] Mitch McConnell even admitted this, who wanted to default,” Kerry said. “This is not about ransom, it’s about our nation, it’s about our country, it’s about growth, it’s about statesmanship.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), appearing on the same show, said Democrats were also to blame for “dysfunction” in Washington.

McCain criticized Obama for not making public a detailed deficit-reduction plan.

“A lot of it has to do with the failure of the president of the United States to lead. I would remind you that Republicans control one third of the government.”

“The fact is the president never came forward with a plan. There was never a specific plan.”

McCain acknowledged lawmakers could have reached a deal to raise the debt limit earlier but defended House Republicans for holding a hard line.

“The members of the House of Representatives had a mandate,” McCain said. “It was jobs and the economy and it was spending. And for them to then agree to tax increases and spending increases was obviously a repudiation of the mandate that they felt they had from last November.”

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week”, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, reiterated his persistent criticism that Senate Democrats have failed to make public their detailed budget plan.

Sessions, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, said Republicans could join Obama in passing a meaningful fiscal package if the president agreed to 10-percent across-the-board spending cuts.

“If he asks us to reduce spending by 10 percent across the board, all these departments and agencies, Congress would rally to him, you know — you know, in a bipartisan way,” Sessions said.

Congressional Democrats, however, would likely reject this proposal out of hand. They have insisted this year that a comprehensive deal raise additional tax revenues.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that a special committee set up to find an additional $1.5 trillion in savings would not have success if Republicans on the panel refused to raise tax revenues.

Sessions said a budget deal raising taxes would be unacceptable and rejected the criteria Democrats have set for a balanced deal.

“Raising taxes is what balanced plan means,” Sessions said. “That's plain to every American by now. The administration wants to raise taxes so they can permanently implant a larger level of spending. They've increased domestic discretionary spending 24 percent in two years. This is unthinkable.”

Still, Sessions expressed optimism that the new ‘supercommittee’ will make progress.

“I do believe that committee can function and be successful in the limited goal we've given them,” he said.