Sen. Toomey rejects using his plan on tax loopholes to save defense programs

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) on Tuesday said the elimination of tax deductions he proposed last year during deficit negotiations should not be used to avert a $55 billion cut to military spending in 2013. 

“The changes in the deductions and other tax expenditures must be preserved for tax reform,” Toomey said during a question-and-answer session at the Brookings Institution. “I’m in favor of reprogramming the cuts, looking at other areas to do some of that, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to go into the tax code and start ratcheting down the value of the [tax] expenditures because then we won’t be nearly as able to generate the pro-growth tax reform that I think we need.”

Toomey, a member of the supercommittee, last year offered increasing tax revenues — under a static scoring model — by $250 billion by eliminating a variety of unspecified tax deductions.

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is working toward a bipartisan deal to stop tens of millions of dollars in automatic defense cuts in 2013, has proposed using some of the tax provisions identified by Toomey to pay for defense spending.

“Pat Toomey, in the final hours, as you know, before the failure of this select committee, had some proposals, some of which have already been adopted, for raising revenues, closing loopholes, whatever you want to call it, and I think that that could serve as a blueprint for further action on our part,” McCain said last month at the Bloomberg Government Defense Conference. 

Toomey rejected that suggestion, even though he said he agrees that the defense sequester should be stopped. He said defense cuts should be replaced with other cut to federal spending.

“I’m not a fan of the defense cuts that are coming in the sequestration. I do think that it’s a disproportionate hit coming out of our defense budget, and I accept the consensus of all of our senior military leaders and our secretary of defense who said this is very problematic,” he said.

Toomey told reporters after the session that the automatic defense cuts — $500 billion over 10 years — should be addressed all at once, and not on a year-to-year basis. He added that if Congress cannot agree on a broad plan, the 2013 cuts should be stopped. McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have focused on finding offsets to eliminate only the first year of the defense cuts.  

“I have laid out the optimal way to deal with this,” Toomey said. “That is the fairest solution.” 

He said that his staff is working now on a revised tax reform plan just dealing with the individual code and is looking for the optimum time to release it.

“We are putting the numbers to it. We are in the process of refining it,” he said. He would not say when it could be released. 

He said that he is not involved in ongoing efforts like the Gang of Eight to put together a deficit-reduction plan.

Asked what can be accomplished in the lame-duck session, Toomey said it is too early to say.

“Everything changes, everything depends on the outcome of the election,” he said.

Erik Wasson contributed.