Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Debt Deal May Not Have to Be All Cuts

Bill Clark/Roll Call
At a press conference Wednesday, Senate Democratic leaders, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (far right), argued that any deal to raise the debt limit and reduce the deficit should include provisions intended to stimulate job growth.

"Since Sen. Schumer's last great political idea was a tax hike that failed with bipartisan opposition, this latest proposal, as you can imagine, causes one to consider where the serious Democrat proposals will come from," the aide said, referencing Schumer's push to eliminate oil-and-gas tax breaks.

Republicans have been insisting that any deal to raise the debt ceiling includes steep cuts in federal spending and a reduction of the deficit.

Democrats, however, took the relatively muted opposition to the payroll tax idea as a sign it might win support.

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, aren't the only ones hoping to use the deficit reduction plan to their advantage.

While many industries are feeling defensive lest their tax breaks or subsidies face the ax, others see an opportunity to hitchhike on the must-pass debt limit measure.

Some telecommunications lobbyists have pointed out that a broadcast spectrum auction could garner tens of billions of dollars to reduce the deficit, although the industry is worried about how such an auction would be structured.

CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, said it is open to it being included but is more focused right now on spectrum bills moving through the Senate and House committee process.

"We are not today making the case that that needs to be the way to do this," CTIA's Jot Carpenter said.

Still, Carpenter acknowledged that lawmakers have previously used spectrum auctions as a relatively painless revenue raiser.

"We've never had spectrum through communications policy initiatives. It's always been in the budget process," Carpenter said.

The National Association of Broadcasters' Dennis Wharton said the trade group is closely watching whether spectrum becomes a part of a final deal.

"We are not opposed to the concept of stations turning in their licenses and being compensated if they want to go out of business. The real critical point for us is we should not be penalizing the viewers of those stations who do not volunteer," Wharton said.

Online gaming would also welcome being included in a final deal. The long-controversial issue has languished in recent years without critical support in the House and Senate. Gaming supporters are expecting Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) to introduce a gaming bill as a way to get GOP leaders more comfortable with moving the legislation this Congress.

That isn't stopping them from looking for opportunities in the budget talks. One key argument lobbyists continue to make is the potential to add billions of dollars a year in revenue if the federal government was to tax online gaming companies.

"Tax us. We're here," Poker Players Alliance's John Pappas said. "We would love to be part of the deficit talks. As of right now, I don't think we have an official seat at the table. Certainly, if it does come to a point where they want to look in this direction, we'd certainly be willing to put a full press to make this happen."

But Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) predicted it wouldn't make the cut.

"I'm all for it, [but] it's too controversial," he said. "I don't see that happening."

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