That represents a larger share for taxes than has been proposed by either President Obama or the bipartisan commission he appointed to recommend how to cut the national debt.
So far, the Democratic tax agenda is focused on ending subsidies for big oil companies, a hugely popular proposal involving what Democrats see as a prime example of wasteful giveaways in the tax code. By raising the issue, Democrats are trying to force Republicans either to drop their rigid stance against new taxes or to defend taxpayer subsidies for some of the world’s most profitable corporations, including Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.
The proposal came in response to remarks Tuesday by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who said raising taxes is “off the table.” A day earlier, he gave a speech demanding more than $2 trillion in spending cuts in exchange for GOP support for an increase in the legal limit on government borrowing through the end of next year.
“We should not be drawing lines in the sand,” Reid told reporters Tuesday. “It has to be a fair approach to balancing the budget. We have to do something with domestic [programs]. We have to do something on defense. And, of course, we have to do a better job with taxes.”
Republican leaders affirmed their opposition to tax increases, whether through the elimination of oil company subsidies or any other changes in the tax code.
“We’re not going to raise taxes,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told reporters. “That was decided in last November’s election. I think the American people pretty clearly believe that we have the deficit problem because we spend too much, not because we tax too little. ”
The clash over oil company subsidies is the latest flare-up in a broader battle over the most controversial budget issues: Republican demands for cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs, and Democratic insistence on new revenue. In White House budget talks, which got underway last week and are expected to stretch into the summer, those two issues have been temporarily set aside as lawmakers from both parties work with Vice President Biden to try to identify areas of common ground.
Those talks continued Tuesday at Blair House, with the aim of easing passage of a significant increase in the debt limit, currently set at $14.3 trillion. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said he can pay the nation’s bills through Aug. 2 without fresh borrowing, but thereafter the United States would run the risk of default.