Hatch will oppose any deficit-reduction deal that includes raising taxes

Hatch will oppose any deficit-reduction deal that includes raising taxes

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump administration backs Oracle in Supreme Court battle against Google Timeline: Trump and Romney's rocky relationship Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock MORE (R-Utah) poses a significant obstacle to any bipartisan deficit reduction deal in the Senate that would raise taxes, according to Senate aides and activists. 

Hatch would have significant say over any deficit-reduction as ranking Republican on the Senate Finance panel, which has jurisdiction over taxes, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

He told conservative activists shortly before the April recess that he would oppose any deficit-reduction package that raises taxes, period.

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“He has stressed no tax increases,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a prominent anti-tax group, speaking of assurances Hatch made at a recent Tax Day event with conservatives. “That’s what he told me when he was at the April 14 press conference. Hatch was there and stressed no tax increases. Period.”

Senate sources say Hatch has taken an equally hard line in discussions within the Senate.

“Hatch has been insistent on no new taxes,” said a Senate aide.

In a Senate floor speech last week, Hatch delivered a strong rebuttal to President Obama’s call for a multi-pronged strategy to reduce the deficit.

“He called for tax reform, but not to make our overly-burdensome code more efficient, but to spend more of the American people’s money,” Hatch said of the president’s speech.

“Raising taxes has never and will never solve our deficit crisis,” he added. “When taxes are hiked in the name of tackling our debt, they’ve been used for more spending.”


Hatch controls only one vote out of a hundred in the upper chamber, but as the senior Republican on Finance, he wields considerable influence in the GOP caucus.

He could imperil any bipartisan deal that emerged from the Gang of Six next month that would raise revenue by eliminating narrow tax breaks.

And he will make it more difficult for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBaucus backing Biden's 2020 bid Bottom line Overnight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms MORE (D-Mont.) to move any legislation that raises taxes through the panel.

This may force Baucus to reach out to his long-time negotiating partner, Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Iowa), instead.

Hatch has little room to maneuver on tax reform. He faces a potentially tough reelection race in the Utah Republican primary next year, and conservative activists say supporting legislation that increases taxes could doom his bid.

Andrew Roth, vice president of government affairs at the conservative Club for Growth, said Hatch would prompt a strong backlash if he supported a deficit-reduction package that raised taxes through tax reform. 

“I think it would make the chances against his reelection probably insurmountable,” said Roth. “Conservatives in Utah already have a high standard for their representatives in Congress. They don’t suffer transgressions lightly.”

Club for Growth spent $211,000 to defeat former Sen. Robert Bennett in the 2010 Utah Republican primary and help elect Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCongress set for clash over surveillance reforms The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (R-Utah), a founding member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.

Conservatives have pressed Hatch to take a strong stance against tax increases since last year, as he prepared to take over the senior GOP post on the powerful committee.

They wanted him to stake out a clear position against tax increases in hopes of steering Obama’s fiscal commission away from endorsing them.

"Everybody knows I'm a tax cutter and not a tax increaser, so the odds are that I probably couldn't support something that would increase taxes, especially given the amount of spending going on," Hatch told The Hill in May.

The jockeying, however, did not stop the fiscal commission from proposing tax reforms that would raise taxes by at least $785 billion over 10 years.

Three Republicans on the panel, Sens. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnOvernight Energy: Experts criticize changes to EPA lead, copper rule | House panel looks into plan to limit powers of EPA science advisers | Senate bill aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 Trump budget proposal funds financially struggling museum in Reagan's childhood home The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach MORE (Okla.) and Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Trump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire On The Money: Economy grows 2.3 percent in 2019, slowest year under Trump | How coronavirus could impact the US economy | Farm bankruptcies jump | Pelosi not ready to back UK trade deal MORE (Idaho) and former Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), voted for the proposal.

Two of those men are now members of the Gang of Six, the bipartisan Senate negotiating group that is trying to craft a legislative package reflecting the proposals of the deficit commission.

Coburn said in a radio interview Thursday that the group could call for tax increases on some people but that taxes would not be raised by a significant amount.

"There's no plan to have a significant tax hike on anyone," Coburn said on Laura Ingraham's radio show.

But Coburn has not ruled out tax increases altogether.

"Will some people pay increased taxes? I'm sure they will," Coburn said.

The prospect has alarmed conservatives.

Norquist says Coburn’s pledge to spare taxpayers from a “significant tax hike” is not sufficient. 

“What does he mean by saying it’s not significant? That’s a description, not a number,” said Norquist. “He didn’t really tell us anything.”

Hatch’s staunch opposition to tax increases adds to the pressure on Coburn and Crapo not to agree to higher tax rates within the panel's eventual proposal. Both lawmakers sit with Hatch on the Finance Committee.

Hatch’s spokeswoman, Julia Lawless, said her boss firmly believes the budget crisis can be solved without tax increases.

“The fact is, keeping current tax policy in place will yield revenue at the historic average — roughly 18 percent — of the economy,” she said.

She said Hatch supports “smart fiscal policy that will hold down spending and provide hard-working American families with responsible tax relief.”