Leaders of conservative groups on Tuesday had a message for Congress: The supercommittee’s failure wasn’t necessarily a failure.
One day after the co-chairs of the bipartisan panel announced that they were unable to reach agreement on a deal to stem the country’s rising tide of red ink, the leaders of several conservative organizations cast the failure as a success because it did not result in a deal including tax increases.
“The death of any negotiations that would lead to higher taxes on the financially strapped American people is a clear victory for our country,” Brent Bozell, president of the group ForAmerica, said at Tuesday’s news conference at the Capitol Hill Hyatt.
Some liberal groups have also hailed the supercommittee’s inability to reach agreement. “Goodbye and good riddance,” Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green said in a statement. “A supercommittee working to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits was an absurd anachronism in the era of Occupy Wall Street -- in which the 99 percent are calling for Wall Street banks and the rich to finally pay their fair share.”
Attending the conservative event along with Bozell were Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips; Tea Party Patriots National Coordinator Jenny Beth Martin; Family Research Council President Tony Perkins; Citizens United President David Bossie; Heritage Foundation fellow and former attorney general Edwin Meese; and Leadership Project president and former congressman David McIntosh.
The leaders were in agreement that taxes should not be raised as part of any broader debt-reduction plan and that any potential compromise by Republicans on the issue would have the same ramifications at the ballot box as they did for former President George H.W. Bush, who lost re-election in 1992 after going back on his pledge not to raise taxes.
“If Republicans compromise on any tax increases, they will suffer the same fate: they will be out next November,” Bozell said.
But the conservative leaders differed on several key issues that face Congress now that the supercommittee has failed. One piece of unfinished business Congress will now have to deal with is whether to extend unemployment insurance and the one-year payroll tax cut.
Phillips and Bozell said Tuesday they would support extending the payroll tax cut. But some conservatives on Capitol Hill have been hesitant to back an extension, arguing that it would add to the deficit and threaten the solvency of Social Security.
Likewise, some of those who spoke at Tuesday’s news conference, including Bozell, Perkins and Meese, said that they believed Congress should re-work the across-the-board spending cut that will take effect in January 2013; the cut will hit both defense and non-defense spending, and some defense hawks have already come out strongly against it.
“The idea that cuts in the military spending would be demanded in order to try to raise taxes is as unpatriotic and as contrary to the needs of this country as anything I’ve seen,” Meese said.
Martin of the Tea Party Patriots dismissed the fact that the across-the-board cut won’t go into effect until 2013 as a “gimmick” and argued that it shows Congress is not serious about cutting spending.
“The fact that they have military spending or Medicare spending on the table – we don’t even believe that they mean that,” she said. “The fact of the matter is that the American people are fed up with Congress. They lie. They say that spending increases are cuts, and then they play stupid, gimmicky games. ... It’s time to do something now.”
Phillips, meanwhile, contended that it’s the responsibility of Congress to abide by the cuts that were agreed to in the August debt-ceiling deal.
“It would be hypocritical for Democrats or Republicans, in our view at Americans for Prosperity, who cut a debt-limit deal just this past summer to then turn around and to say, ‘Well, we were just kidding about the spending side. We were just kidding about that.’ The dollar levels have to be there,” he said. “That’s the deal they made.”