If Republicans wish to avoid defense cuts, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned Thursday, they should agree with Democrats to tax the rich.
The California Democrat accused Republicans of feeling more bound to the anti-tax pledge of Grover Norquist, head of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, than to their oath to serve and defend the country.
“The sequester is what it is,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol, referring to the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts that would be triggered if the supercommittee fails to agree to that amount in deficit reduction over the next decade.
“There are some who think or have suggested that the oath to Mr. Norquist is more important than other oaths that members take.”
The automatic cuts would be split between defense and domestic programs. A number of leading Republicans, as well as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have warned that Pentagon cuts of such magnitude would cripple the country’s defense capabilities.
Pelosi on Thursday said Democrats are no less concerned with the nation’s strength — both in terms of defense and domestic affairs. But the entire idea behind making the automatic cuts so unattractive, she noted, was to force the supercommittee members to make the tough choices required to reach a deal.
“The thought with sequester is that we’re all very concerned about our national defense and the strength of our country, whether it’s measuring the health and education [and] well-being of our people on one side of the sequester, and as it is measured in our military strength,” she said.
“We would rather there be a better way to do this. But if you refuse … to take one red cent from the wealthiest people in our country and the price we have to pay is the diminished defense and the diminished strength of our country, I think that something is [wrong] here.
“That could be avoided,” Pelosi said, if supercommittee Republicans would agree to a broader plan that brings tax-revenue increases in closer balance to the domestic cuts the Democrats have laid on the table.
“One might judge that the Republicans are more concerned about not taxing anymore,” she said.
Pelosi’s remarks arrive as Democrats are feeling they have the upper hand as the supercommittee scrambles to find $1.2 trillion in deficit savings by Nov. 23 or trigger the automatic cuts.
Last week, Republicans on the supercommittee offered a plan to hike tax revenues by $250 billion as long as the Bush-era tax cuts were expanded and extended.
Pelosi on Thursday rejected that plan outright.
“If the plan is to extend the Bush tax cuts, and to repeal the Medicare guarantee for our seniors, well that’s not balanced and that’s a place we cannot go,” she said.