Republican Supercommittee Members: Failure Not Our Fault

The Republican members of the supercommittee are fighting back against charges that the supercommittee failed because they opposed tax increases.

In a Friday op-ed in The Washington Post, all six Republican members of the supercommittee – Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Reps. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Fred Upton (Mich.) and Dave Camp (Mich.) – said they supported a plan that would have provided $250 billion in new revenue from tax reform.

They wrote, “one Democratic talking point needs debunking: that the talks failed because of Republicans’ attachment to the Bush tax cuts.”

They offered the plan with additional revenue, they insisted, “to try to meet the Democrats partway – given their absolute insistence on big, new tax increases.”

Democratic supercommittee member Chris Van Hollen took a different view in a Saturday op-ed in The Washington Post, writing, “In reality, their willingness to raise $250 billion of that revenue was conditioned on Democrats agreeing to make permanent more than $800 billion of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which are scheduled to expire at the end of next year – thereby locking in $550 billion of tax breaks for the top 2 percent of earners.”

The confusion over whether the Republican proposal would actually increase or decrease revenue stems from expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts. Those tax cuts were passed in 2002 and 2003 under President George W. Bush and extended for two more years in 2010 under President Obama and a Democratic Congress.

The Republican supercommittee proposal would increase revenue from current rates, but the revenue would be less than if the Bush/Obama tax cuts were allowed to expire.

“Now, here’s the key: None of this can happen if the current law’s automatic tax increases occur on Jan. 1, 2013,” the Republican supercommittee members wrote. “We can’t both reform the code as Republicans propose and undo it all 12 months later.”

Democrats on the committee, the six Republicans write, wanted the $250 billion in new revenue and for the Bush/Obama tax cuts to expire.

“So it was not some political attachment to the Bush tax cuts that stymied committee success but, rather, the refusal of the committee’s Democrats to acknowledge the inconsistency in claiming to accept the amount and way the Republican plan would raise tax revenue while insisting that the 2013 tax increases (at least those affecting investment decisions) must also occur.”

For their part, Democrats on the supercommittee have argued that they were willing to negotiate entitlement reform. According to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), on NBC's “Meet the Press, “the Democrats on the supercommittee were willing to allow more entitlement savings than the Simpson-Bowles commission recommended.”

Portman acknowledged, in an interview with reporters the night the supercommittee failed, that Democrats had put entitlement reform on the table. “I give them credit for that,” Portman said, but the price was too high. The Democratic supercommittee members would, apparently, only agree to entitlement reform if Republican members agreed to at least $1 trillion in new revenue.

“I am very sad about this process not succeeding because it was a unique opportunity to both address the fiscal crisis and give the economy a shot in the arm,” Portman said.