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 PortmanGOP senator draws fire from all sides on Biden, Obama-era probes Ron Johnson signals some GOP senators concerned about his Obama-era probes Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump 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 DurbinDemocrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Negotiators signal relief bill stuck, not dead White House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders MORE (D-Ill.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Election security advocates see strong ally in Harris Democrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling MORE (D-Va.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Top GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill MORE (R-Idaho), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying world GOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks MORE (R-Ga.) and Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnInspector general independence must be a bipartisan priority in 2020 Congress must protect federal watchdogs Tom Coburn's annual gift to taxpayers MORE (R-Okla.).

Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Expanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 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 ReidPentagon launches task force to study UFO sightings Pentagon forming task force to investigate military UFO sightings Kamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner 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 MurrayPelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive House approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic GOP, Democratic relief packages B apart on vaccine funding 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.