GOP senators seek to divide and conquer deficit supercommittee

GOP senators seek to divide and conquer deficit supercommittee

Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSteel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs Trade official warns senators of obstacles to quick China deal Lawmakers divided over how to end shutdowns for good MORE (Ohio), Republican members of the deficit-reduction supercommittee, are trying to attract Democrats off the special panel to support their plan to restructure the tax code.

Toomey and Portman met with Democratic and Republican members of the Gang of Eight on Wednesday to present their plan to reduce the deficit, according to Senate sources. The ambitious proposal would raise about $300 billion in new net tax revenues and lower marginal income tax rates across the board.

Toomey and Portman hope to build momentum for their proposal, which they believe could serve as the basis for a supercommittee deal. The panel faces a Nov. 23 deadline to submit a plan for at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts. 

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The original Gang of Six — an informal bipartisan group committed to a major deficit-reduction deal — included Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump praises law enforcement response to shooting at Illinois business Five dead in shooting at manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire MORE (D-Ill.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs Drama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry MORE (D-Va.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoOn The Money: Lawmakers race to pass border deal | Trump rips 'stingy' Democrats, but says shutdown would be 'terrible' | Battle over contractor back pay | Banking panel kicks off data security talks Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers press officials on 2020 election security | T-Mobile, Sprint execs defend merger before Congress | Officials charge alleged Iranian spy | Senate panel kicks off talks on data security bill Senate Banking panel kicks off talks on data security bill MORE (R-Idaho), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissSenate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems Ossoff tests waters for Georgia Senate run CIA's ‘surveillance state’ is operating against us all MORE (R-Ga.) and Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.).

Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic donors stuck in shopping phase of primary Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — CDC blames e-cigs for rise in youth tobacco use | FDA cracks down on dietary supplements | More drug pricing hearings on tap The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Next 24 hours critical for stalled funding talks MORE (D-Colo.) and Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (R-Neb.) later joined the group to make it the Gang of Eight.

Not all members of the Gang could attend the last-minute meeting with Toomey and Portman.

The two Republicans appear to be trying to build bipartisan support for their proposal by sharing it outside the narrow confines of the supercommittee. But some Democrats suspect they could be trying to drive a wedge between the Democratic members of the Gang of Six and the supercommittee.

Democratic supercommittee members this week firmly rejected Toomey’s plan as lacking credibility.


A person familiar with supercommittee negotiations said Thursday evening that those talks had hit an “impasse.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidConstitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Klobuchar: 'I don't remember' conversation with Reid over alleged staff mistreatment Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) on Thursday called it a “phony” plan because it lacked details about how Republicans would raise new tax revenue while slashing income tax rates.

But Durbin, the Senate Democratic Whip, offered some encouragement, saying Wednesday that the fact that Republicans were talking about a net increase in taxes was a “breakthrough." 

Durbin said he does not support Toomey’s plan but nevertheless said putting revenues on the table was “an important step forward.”

Durbin served for months on the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission and later the Gang of Six in an effort to build a significant deficit-reduction package.

Toomey and Portman hope that other Democrats who are committed to a major deficit-reduction deal might be interested in the latest offer from GOP members of the supercommittee.

Aides to Toomey and Portman declined to comment.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators seek answers on surprise medical bills | Red states move to limit Medicaid expansion | Two drug companies agree to testify Senate Dems block Sasse measure meant to respond to Virginia bill MORE (Was.), the Democratic co-chairwoman of the supercommittee, dismissed the GOP’s latest proposal this week, telling reporters she has “yet to see a real, credible plan that raises revenue in a significant way to bring us to a fair, balanced proposal”, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans think other Democrats might be persuaded to support it, however.

“I do,” said Coburn. “It’s a big breakthrough, like Dick Durbin said.”

Durbin says Republicans are taking his comments out of context.

“I believe the fact that Republicans have mentioned the word 'revenue' is a breakthrough. Now, I have not endorsed their proposal, nor do I think it’s the endgame by any means. But the fact that they have put revenues on the table is an important step forward,” Durbin told Reuters.

A senior Democratic aide expressed skepticism that any Democratic senators would voice support for the Toomey plan.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank, said the proposal “raises grave concerns” and adds “little balance.”

“The proposal seems designed to make only a modest revenue contribution toward deficit reduction and then to take revenues off the table for the larger rounds of deficit reduction that must follow,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote in an analysis.