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The Coming GOP Crack-Up Over the Toomey-Hensarling Tax Hikes

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Mike Allen’s Tuesday “Playbook” is full of Supercommittee tidbits –bike rides between John Kerry, Rob Portman, and Mark Warner. Showy displays by 45 senators here and 100 representatives there. All the stuff of a Beltway culture telling itself they can persuade the public of seriousness by shows of affection.

A local Pennsylvania newspaper has more details on the Toomey-Hensarling tax hike, though, and it isn’t pretty.
Perhaps the report is wrong, but here’s what it says about Senator Toomey’s Supercommittee plan:

At the proposal’s core is Toomey’s economic belief that simplifying and lowering taxes will grow the economy, and in turn, a growing economy will produce more revenue. It would cut the deficit by a bit more than the $1.2 trillion required of the supercommittee, with about $700 billion coming from spending cuts. It would lower the top tax rate for individuals from 35 percent to 28 percent, and generate around $500 billion in new revenue from closing unspecified tax loopholes and reducing tax deductions….

Toomey, whose plan was presented verbally to his colleagues and not in written bill form, did not specify which spending or tax deductions to cut. In a phone interview Friday, he said his preference would be across the board reductions in deductions as opposed to eliminating any entirely.

His plan equates to $1.50 of cuts for every $1 of new revenue, he said. It’s a huge concession for Republicans, he said, considering the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform had recommended $3 in cuts for each $1 of new revenue.

Though this article is based on an interview with Senator Toomey, perhaps it is wrong, and perhaps this truly horrific idea of a compromise is just a trial balloon designed to demonstrate one GOP senator’s commitment to tax reform.

What is crucial is that this approach be loudly and quickly rejected by the House GOP and key GOP senators as any such plan is an enormous breach of faith with the voters who sent back a new GOP majority and who will be asked in less than a year to do so again and to add enough GOP senators to make a working majority for a new Republican president. Any deal like Toomey’s would greatly injure the chances of gathering the sort of energy necessary to recreate the 2010, 1994 or 1980 sweep because it would be an obvious indictment of the credibility of the House and Senate GOP, not one member of which ran on such a platform last year.

Jeb Hensarling and Pat Toomey have been frequent guests on my radio show over the past couple of years, and both are sound conservatives. Neither of them ever appealed for support or votes or campaign contributions so they could go to D.C. and cripple the housing market and everyone’s home value by limiting the mortgage interest deduction on so-called high-end homes. Neither of them urged capping the charitable deduction so that churches, synagogues, hospitals and tens of thousands of other non-governmental agencies would see contributions decline. Neither of them urged that state and local taxes be made non-deductible so that those Americans already bearing the highest costs of government would bear even more. They didn’t do so. No one did. And that’s the biggest problem.

Both men seem to have forgotten that they were not sent back to D.C. to re-engineer the government or “reform” the tax code so that millions would pay more and millions would pay less and more total revenue would flow into it, but so that spending would be drastically cut.

They were not sent there to be part of the all-knowing, all seeing Committee of Oz.

The looming sequestration would be a disaster for the military –if it was allowed to happen. But it won’t be. If the GOP goes to the country next November demanding a majority that will reform entitlements, cut spending but restore military strength and spending levels to what they need to be, it will win the House again and regain control of the Senate. Harry Reid’s temper-tantrum has already shattered the possibility of a blockade of serious reform by effectively ending the filibuster, and reconciliation exists to accomplish a great deal even if the Senate GOP chooses to not take up the cudgel on procedural blockades that Reid embraced and used earlier this year.

But as Rick Santorum said on yesterday’s show, the path the Supercommittee’s Republicans are said to be on is a disastrous one:

[T]his is “Read My Lips” again. We had George Bush, who said read my lips, no new taxes, and then we passed a tax increase, they passed, I wasn’t around, but they passed a tax increase. I think it was back in 1989. And it was disastrous for us, and obviously, disastrous for President Bush. I think it will be disastrous for members of Congress, because there is an element out there that you’re right, doesn’t believe either side. And when strong conservatives like Jeb Hensarling and Pat Toomey are making the case for this, then it does raise doubts about whether we can hold this strong, conservative majority together into the next election.

Santorum is absolutely right because ti will be impossible to put people like Virginia’s George Allen, Ohio’s Josh Mandel, Florida’s Adam Hasner, Texas’ Ted Cruz and other great conservative candidates for the Senate on the air and have them be believed when great conservative candidates like Pat Toomey did the same thing a year ago when running for office and then promptly get to D.C. and vote for massive tax hikes on millions of Americans and then tell them to applaud because its “tax reform, don’t you know?”

The issue of credibility and integrity has hung over the new House GOP majority from day one. They all ran on a Pledge to America that is still online and available for everyone to read. There isn’t a word devoted to ending key existing deductions, only promises of more tax relief for small businesses.

There isn’t a line about the need to increase tax revenues because such a position would be absurd. The government’s spending is crazy, far beyond any reasonable limit. It doesn’t need new revenues. It needs to be drastically cut.

This is what drove the political tide of 2010, and the GOP –or rather a handful of GOP electeds and their staffs– are about to give it all away because they fear a fight with Democrats over the ill-conceived sequestration which came out of the ill-conceived debt deal which flowed out of the ill-conceived punt on the first CR and which is leading to a series of ill-conceived new continuing resolutions which is the result of a refusal of the GOP to have the fight with Democrats they were sent there to have.

Some Republicans hoped that the Democrats might have seen the trials of Europe and acted responsibly to reform at least Social Security and Medicaid, but they haven’t. That result was ordained when Harry Reid put Patty Murray and John Kerry on the Supercommittee.

It was worth a hope but it isn’t worth collapse and retreat which is the Toomey-Hensarling tax hike plan, a “deal” on new revenues or any other maneuver. If the GOP blinks again, it will be 2006 all over again, and with good reason. If the Congress is going to spend like Democrats, let Democrats run it.

The Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121. The Twitter account of Senator Toomey is @SenToomey and for Jeb Hensarling it is @RepHensarling. Other key Twitter accounts: @JohnBoehner, @GOPLeader, @EricCantor, @KevinOMcCarthy and @Senate_GOPs. Weigh in.

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