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Deficit Panel Feels Coburn’s Influence

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Tom Coburn's "Back in Black" deficit reduction plan is getting attention from outside groups as well as members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction.

At a time when the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction appears to be shutting out everyone else, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has the ear of one of the panel’s most important Republicans and the attention of groups across Washington, D.C.

Coburn gained cachet as a deficit hawk in working with the Senate’s bipartisan “gang of six,” and he has drawn accolades and ire for his openness to tax reform. But what may make him most valuable to those seeking to exert influence on Congress’ most powerful panel is his
614-page, $9 trillion deficit reduction plan, “Back in Black.”

The outline, which the Oklahoma
Republican unveiled in July, has become a primary source of deficit reduction ideas for outside groups and even Republicans on other Congressional panels, including an important oversight subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel.

More importantly, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) — a pivotal member of the super committee — said Coburn’s extensive proposals should be taken up by the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction.

“They can and they should,” Kyl said Tuesday of super committee members considering the “Back in Black” framework, adding that he has talked to Coburn about some of his ideas.

That Coburn is discussing deficit reduction with Kyl, a top ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and a former member of the negotiating group led by Vice President Joseph Biden, could provide a small window into Republican thinking.

Coburn’s plan, which would slash
$9 trillion from the deficit over 10 years, includes everything from discretionary and mandatory spending cuts to fundamental tax code reform.  Kyl would not say specifically whether he was talking about revenue reform with Coburn, but he left the door open to the possibility.

“With regard to what you’re talking about right now, mostly what I talked about is the information that he’s compiled about savings that could be achieved,” Kyl told Roll Call when asked whether his talks were focused on cuts or revenues.

The “Back in Black” plan proposes $1 trillion in tax code reform savings,
$3 trillion from entitlements, $3 trillion from discretionary spending, $1 trillion from defense spending and $1 trillion in interest costs. Of course, Coburn has run afoul of groups opposed to tax increases, such as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, over his willingness to entertain increased revenues for federal coffers. Most Republicans have signed ATR’s pledge to not increase taxes.

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