Conservatives split on debt plan as Coburn, Crapo announce support

A split emerged among conservatives Thursday over President Obama’s fiscal commission after two more GOP members of the panel said they’d support its recommendations.

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) both announced that they would support the proposals made Wednesday by the president’s fiscal commission. Retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, previously announced his support for the plan. 

But Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), another commission member and the incoming Budget Committee chairman in the House, denounced the plan, arguing it does not do enough to prevent rising healthcare costs he said will result from the new healthcare law.

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Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the new GOP conference chairman and another commission member, has also signaled he will also vote against the plan.

And the fiscally conservative Americans for Tax Reform on Thursday warned GOP lawmakers that any support for the plan would be construed as a violation of the no-new-taxes pledge many Republicans have signed.

Despite that opposition, senate conservatives are giving the plan presented by former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson (Wy.) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles a better review.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who does not sit on the panel, on Thursday blessed some of the commission's tax proposals, calling them intriguing during an appearance on CBS.

Coburn underlined the importance of doing something to get the nation’s skyrocketing budget deficit in order during a press conference announcing he’ll vote for the plan at a commission meeting on Friday.

“I am scared to death of the potential that could unwind this country far greater than anything we've seen before,” Coburn said.

The proposals appear to have nine votes so far on the 18-member commission. If 14 of the commission members vote for the proposals, it would be adopted. House and Senate leaders have agreed to hold a vote on the austerity plan if it wins the commission’s approval.

Crapo, who joined Coburn at the press conference, said that it’s still possible the fiscal panel’s report could reach that 14-vote threshold, though other members of the commission have been less optimistic.

As for other Senate Republicans, Crapo said that they’re reserving judgment.

“We have both talked to most of the members of our conference...and I would say that, other than the members of the commission, most of the other members of both caucuses are reserving judgment and studying right now,” he said. “My initial observation is that, just like every other member of the commission, they are seeing pain and gain in the proposal.”