Republicans have announced their picks for the “supercommittee” responsible for coming up with a $1.2-1.5 trillion deficit reduction plan. All six GOP members have staunchly opposed new tax increases, suggesting that a stalemate is increasingly likely.
House Speaker John Boehner has chosen Reps. Dave Camp, Fred Upton and Jeb Hensarling, and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell has chosen Sens. Rob Portman, Jon Kyl and Pat Toomey. Of the six, Portman has expressed the openness to the Senate Gang of Six’s deficit plan, as The Hill points out. In late July, at the height of the debt-ceiling negotiations, he called the group’s work “a step in the right direction.”
But Portman never came out fully in support of the Gang of Six’s plan, and his commitment to the GOP hardline seems to have firmed up. Just yesterday, Portman told the Columbus Dispatch that any tax increases should be off the table. While he also affirmed his support for raising revenue through tax reform — eliminating loopholes and the like — Portman made it clear last month that he doesn’t think that tax reform should be part of a deficit deal. As his spokesman told ABC News last month, Portman “believes we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and that tax reform should be used not to increase revenue but to bring about a more efficient and competitive tax code by lowering rates while clearing out underbrush.”
In other words, even the GOP’s most moderate supercommittee member has ruled out tax increases or tax reform as part of a grand bargain. And without any concessions on revenue from Republicans, there’s not much chance that they will sign on to a plan that will also be acceptable to Democrats. As Senate Majority Harry Reid’s picks confirm, Democrats will be advocating a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction that pairs spending cuts with new revenue. Sens. Max Baucus, John Kerry and Patty Murray may willing to consider entitlement reforms, to varying degrees. But it seems clear that they won’t sign on to a cuts-only package with only nominal revenue increases. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has yet to announce her choices for the committee, but they’re likely to tack further to the left than the Senate Dems and push back even harder against a deal without significant revenue increases.
There was a lot of skepticism about the supercommittee to begin with. And the leadership’s announcements will just add to the chorus of cynics — and prompt Capitol Hill to look even more closely at what cuts will be triggered if the group fails to come to a deal.