“That was a great step forward, which proves that there have been significant discussions. And the worst thing to do when you make a step forward is to back away from the table,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), as he left a lunchtime meeting where GOP negotiators briefed Senate Republicans on the offer.
Democrats denied the charge and insisted that they were still working toward a compromise. But they said a deal depends on Republicans embracing far larger tax increases than they have so far been willing to accept.
“All we’re doing is waiting for them to come back with a fair and balanced proposal with adequate revenue, and we’ve been very clear to them,” said Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a key Democratic negotiator. “They know precisely what is needed here for us to deliver to the American people a very positive and important result.”
No further bipartisan meetings had been scheduled as of late Wednesday, though people in both parties said talks continued through back channels among the 12 members of a special debt-reduction “supercommittee.” The panel risks triggering deep cuts to the Pentagon and other agency budgets in 2013 unless it can forge agreement on a blueprint to reduce borrowing by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
During a three-hour meeting late Monday, Republicans said they believed they had found a path forward. In discussions that stretched nearly until midnight, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) outlined a GOP plan to save $1.2 trillion over the next decade that included as much as $350 billion in new taxes.
Most of the money would come from a revision of the individual tax code that would reduce tax rates for everyone but limit the value of itemized deductions, such as breaks for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions. Republicans said they also offered to raise taxes by as much as $60 billion on corporations, including the elimination of tax breaks for corporate jets and other special interests as President Obama has suggested.
The offer marked an unprecedented break from the anti-tax orthodoxy that has defined the GOP for decades and blocked a far-reaching debt-reduction deal for much of the past year. On Wednesday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate and a veteran of the budget wars, described it as “a breakthrough.”
“The fact that some Republicans have stepped forward to talk about revenue, I think, is an invitation for Democrats to step forward and talk about entitlement reform as well as spending cuts,” Durbin told reporters. “Therein lies the core of an agreement.”