To help the deficit 'super committee' reach a deal, some Republicans appear to be open to the idea of ending some tax breaks, despite opposition from antitax crusaders.
As Congress hurtles toward a self-imposed deadline to cut at least $1.2 trillion from deficits during the next 10 years, conservative lawmakers face tough choices on whether to keep their pledge to never raise taxes.
All six GOP members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction have signed the taxpayer protection pledge, launched in 1986 by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), an antitax group. All but six House Republicans and seven US senators have also signed.
The pledge commits lawmakers to opposing any hikes in tax rates. It also opposes cutting tax breaks or loopholes, unless they are entirely offset by spending cuts or other tax breaks. The idea is to ensure that no new money goes to the federal government but instead remains in the wallets of taxpayers.
But that opposition to any net tax increase is emerging as a major obstacle to the deficit "super committee" reaching a deal by its Nov. 23 deadline. Democrats on the panel are committed to a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, which includes increases to federal revenue, such as tax hikes on the highest-income Americans.
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Now there are signs that, even for some prominent conservatives, the constraints of the ATR pledge are beginning to chafe.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, who chairs the House Budget Committee, lately is avoiding being forced to give a yes-or-no answer to questions on tax hikes. All GOP presidential hopefuls responded in a recent debate that they would oppose revenue increases as part of a deficit-reduction deal, even if the ratio was $1 in tax hikes for every $10 in spending cuts.