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As Sequester Begins, Republicans Open Door to Long-Term Deficit Deal

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Boehner appeared determined to keep the level of spending cuts in place but signaled that a longer-term deal to lower the deficit, overhaul the tax code and rein in spending on entitlement programs could still be had.

Republican congressional leaders opened some room Sunday for a longer-term deficit reduction agreement that eventually could blunt the effects of the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts now in place.

But in appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insisted that any revenue from a tax overhaul would have to be reserved for reducing tax rates and not used to fund government spending or lower the deficit.

The leaders appeared determined to keep the level of spending cuts in place but signaled that a longer-term deal to lower the deficit, overhaul the tax code and rein in spending on entitlement programs could still be had.

McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Republicans are “open to discussing how to reconfigure those spending reductions without raising taxes.”

Boehner pointed the way forward in saying the House this week will pass a continuing resolution to extend government spending through the end of fiscal 2013 — the current six-month spending law (PL 112-175) expires March 27 — and then turn to drafting a fiscal 2014 budget resolution. He urged Senate Democrats to carry out their pledge to also adopt a budget blueprint.

“And out of that discussion and out of that process, maybe we can find a way to deal with our long-term spending problem,” Boehner said on “Meet the Press.”

Republicans, however, appear divided over whether revenue has to be set aside only for lowering tax rates. Some Republicans indicated in interviews Sunday that they may be open, as part of a broad deficit reduction deal, to consider using revenue to lower the deficit, to ease the effects of the spending cuts as well as to reduce tax rates as part of any tax overhaul.

New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte said in an appearance on “This Week” that she would be willing to consider revenue increases to be applied to the debt if a tax overhaul is done to lower tax rates and the president considers an entitlement overhaul.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on “Face the Nation” that they want talks to resume between Congress and the White House to reach a grand bargain to reduce spending and deal with the deficit.

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