More savings would be generated through an overhaul of the tax code that would lower personal and corporate income tax rates while eliminating or reducing an array of popular tax breaks, such as the deduction for home mortgage interest. But the talks envisioned no specific tax increases as part of legislation to lift the debt limit, and the tax rewrite would be postponed until next year.
Democrats reacted with outrage as word filtered to Capitol Hill, saying the emerging agreement appeared to violate their pledge not to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits as well as Obama’s promise not to make deep cuts in programs for the poor without extracting some tax concessions from the rich.
When “we heard these reports of these mega-trillion-dollar cuts with no revenues, it was like Mount Vesuvius. . . . Many of us were volcanic,” said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.).
White House budget director Jacob J. Lew denied that a deal without taxes was in the works. “We’ve been clear revenues have to be part of any agreement,” he told reporters.
After a lunchtime meeting between Lew and Senate Democrats, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) made no attempt to hide his anger, telling reporters that his caucus would oppose the “potential agreement” because it appeared to include no clear guarantee of increased revenue.
“The president always talked about balance, that there had to be some fairness in this, that this can’t be all cuts. There has to be a balance. There has to be some revenue and cuts. My caucus agrees with that,” Reid said. “I hope that the president sticks with that. I’m confident that he will.”
Congressional and administration officials said the White House informed Democratic leaders about the talks after Obama met privately with Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) late Wednesday. Congressional aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity to detail private discussions, said the White House acknowledged that the emerging agreement is “to the right of the Gang of Six” — a bipartisan Senate debt-reduction framework unveiled this week — and far removed from what Democrats have said would be acceptable.
The White House is seeking a trigger that would allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for the nation’s wealthiest households. Boehner has proposed repealing provisions of Obama’s health care law, including the requirement that all individuals purchase health insurance after 2014.