Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is back in the middle of the fight over taxes
As bipartisan talks continue behind the scenes on a long-range deficit plan, Sen. Tom Coburn says Republicans have proved they're willing to accept higher taxes.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn has again put himself in the middle of the debate over cutting the deficit, strongly rejecting the notion that his fellow Republicans won't go along with a broad plan that raises more revenue because they're too afraid of a man unknown to most people outside Washington.
So the only thing left to do is to fix our country, which means recognizing what the real problem is and then compromising, which is what I've been criticized by Grover Norquist for — compromising to get a solution to buy some time.”
Sen. Tom Coburn
In an interview last week, Coburn, R-Muskogee, said he agreed with Democrats that deficit reduction requires what they call “a balanced approach,” that is, more tax revenue along with more spending cuts.
“But how you get the balance is why it's so hard to get there,” Coburn said. “Because their balance is to take it all from the job creators rather than create an economic dynamo by lowering the rates and broadening the (tax) base to create growth.”
Republicans aren't willing to raise tax rates on people and businesses but have shown they would accept higher revenues from eliminating some tax breaks, Coburn said.
For Coburn, the last few weeks have been deja vu all over again.
Like last summer, he is working behind the scenes with Republicans and Democrats on a large deficit-reduction plan. And, like last summer, he is feuding with Grover Norquist, a leading anti-tax advocate in Washington, over whether such a plan should increase revenue for the federal government.
The feud is somewhat esoteric and head-spinning, involving the kinds of political tactics, legislative procedures and personality clashes that Washington thrives on.
And it comes in the midst of a new focus in Washington on major changes coming in late December and early January — the expiration of tax cuts that have been in place for a decade and automatic spending cuts that, according to a new study, could wipe out more than two million jobs nationwide.
Nothing but political posturing is expected to be done regarding the situation before the November elections, leaving a lame duck Congress and, possibly, a lame duck president to deal with it.
Whether it is ultimately addressed with piecemeal and temporary solutions or a grand bipartisan deficit-cutting plan is the question.
The ethanol vote
Though the main topic is trillions of dollars in federal spending and revenue, Coburn and Norquist are still arguing about the Senate vote last year to kill a $6 billion tax break for ethanol production.
To Coburn, that was a test vote on the broader question of whether Republicans would support increasing federal revenue, since killing the tax break would effectively raise taxes on the ethanol producers affected.
Raising revenue in that way would violate Norquist's no-tax-hike pledge signed by most Republicans in Congress unless the new revenue was offset by an equal amount of cuts elsewhere in the tax code.
Coburn wants to see the tax code rewritten with fewer credits and deductions. He was part of the fiscal commission known as Simpson-Bowles that developed a plan aimed at cutting spending by $3 trillion over 10 years and raising about $1 trillion over the decade through overhauling the tax code.
He's now working with a bipartisan group of senators on what he called “Simpson-Bowles 3.0,” a long-term deficit plan that will also combine spending cuts with new revenue.
“There's $30 billion a year worth of tax credits and gifts to wealthy people in the tax code,” Coburn said.
News Photo Galleriesview all
- 72395Oklahoma tornadoes: The 'Big Dog,' the little boy and the hug that triumphs over tragedy
- 14464Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms drink in success of 'Hangover' series
- 8451Hobby Lobby argues case before federal judges
- 7239How to help tornado victims
- 6453Oklahoma tornadoes: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford leading aid effort
- 6316Rock, pop, country acts give talents and time to help Oklahoma tornado victims
- 6292Oklahoma tornadoes: Thunder reverses the role, takes a turn at cheering on the community