By Erik Wasson - 11/17/11 07:32 PM EST
Supercommittee co-chairman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said Thursday that Democrats on the panel have “met” the GOP’s desired revenue level for a deficit-cutting deal and that the ball is in the Republicans’ court to restart negotiations based on that offer.
“We have met their offer on revenue, but we have said that it has to be fair to the American people and done in a way that doesn’t put the burden on working families and addresses the issue of putting people back to work,” Murray said.
Democrats have offered to accept $876 billion in spending cuts in exchange for $400 billion in total revenue, including $250 billion in tax increases. In previous offers, Democrats had demanded an equal number of tax increases and spending cuts.
A Democratic aide said the latest Democratic counteroffer made last Friday has the same level of revenue as the GOP offer written by Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.), one of the Republican supercommittee members. Toomey offered $250 billion in tax increases, but his offer also would lower marginal tax rates permanently, giving the wealthiest U.S. households an 8-percentage-point tax cut.
Democrats are insisting that Republicans drop demands to extend Bush-era tax rates.
“The Democratic proposal from Friday matches the Toomey plan on revenue dollar for dollar,” the aide said. “We have accepted their framework and are willing to come down on revenue with some key changes — but they have to be willing to move as well.”
House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) spokesman Michael Steel dismissed the Democratic offer late Wednesday night, arguing that it would lead to massive tax hikes because the Bush-era tax rates are set to expire at the end of next year. Under the Democratic plan, that wouldn’t change.
“This particular conversation was a step backwards because it would lock in the largest tax hike in history — at least $800 billion — and then add an additional $400 billion in job-killing tax hikes without pro-growth tax reform, plus more than $300 billion in ‘stimulus’ spending,” he said.
Democrats want to use a portion of the package to pay for stimulus measures, which could include an extension of federal unemployment benefits or a deeper payroll-tax cut proposed by President Obama.
Addressing reporters minutes later, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a supercommittee member, appeared taken aback by Murray’s comment on revenue.
“I’m surprised Sen. Murray suggested that,” Kerry said when asked if Democrats had met the GOP on revenue.
“I don’t want to negotiate the numbers out in public,” he added when pressed.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Democrats would be talking to the GOP Thursday and “there’ll be efforts to find out what their intentions are.”
“Maybe we’ll find out today whether they’re still demonstrating any flexibility,” he said.
Mike Lillis and Russell Berman contributed.