The No. 3 Senate Republican, Lamar Alexander, said he's not sure getting rid of tax breaks will be a part of the Biden agreement, but he allowed that after the Senate voted 73-27 to get rid of the ethanol tax subsidy, others should be eliminated at some point as well.
"Anytime you have $1.2 trillion in so-called tax expenditures ... there are probably several hundred billion dollars of those that may be unwarranted, and one appropriate use for stopping unwarranted tax breaks is reducing the debt," the Tennessee Republican said.
Alexander said he thinks most people agree. "If I walked up and down the street in East Tennessee and said, 'Do you think it would be a good idea to get rid of an unwarranted tax break and use the money to reduce the debt?' I bet 99 out of 100 people would say that's a really good idea," he said.
But such talk is heresy to groups such as Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, and it's not clear yet whether House Republicans can be persuaded to go along with getting rid of ethanol and other tax subsidies to cut the deficit. Their position has generally been that such subsidies should be eliminated in a revenue neutral way that cuts overall tax rates.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) reiterated after Thursday's meeting that raising taxes remains off the table. House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) said he would want any savings from getting rid of tax subsidies to go toward cutting tax rates.
And Van Hollen pushed back against reports that Democrats might be willing to support big cuts to Medicaid benefits.
"Democrats are going to make sure that we protect seniors in nursing homes and disabled individuals and kids who need health care," he said. Democrats have offered, however, to cut costs in the program by slashing payments to drug companies by $80 billion.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.