GOP senators respond to debt criticism

Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Mike Crapo (Idaho) in a letter to anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, signaled that overhauling the American tax code would spark economic growth and told him not to necessarily believe every press report about their actions. The three senators are reportedly involved in bipartisan meetings that used recommendations from President Obama’s fiscal commission as a jumping off point. 

“The solution to our economic and fiscal problems will be based on both spending reduction and economic growth,” the senators wrote. “Like you, we believe tax hikes will hinder, not promote, economic growth. And, as you know, the current tax code has become burdensome and complex and filled with provisions which only benefit a limited portion of Americans, at the expense of higher rates for all Americans.”

In a letter sent earlier Thursday, Norquist had written that the senators’ efforts were basically “a transparent attempt” to raise taxes and that they were likely breaking a vow to oppose any tax increases.

The message referenced a Wall Street Journal report that said the proposal evolving from the fiscal commission’s recommendations would include entitlement and tax reform. The overhaul of the tax code, the report said, would be left to House and Senate committees, with the panels given a revenue goal to try and reach. 

Coburn and Crapo were both members of the debt panel, and the Republican senators said in their response that they had discussed their reasons for backing the commission’s findings with Norquist.

“Contrary to some press reports or the interpretation by some, we do not believe our efforts intended to avert tax increases on hardworking Americans violates any pledge we have taken,” they wrote, “but rather affirms the oath we have taken to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, of which our national debt may now be the greatest.”

The three Democratic senators said to be involved in the deficit talks are Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Mark Warner (Va.). Durbin and Conrad were also on the fiscal commission, and both also backed its recommendations.