Prospects for a budget deal brightened Friday, when White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest declined to demand a tax hike in a deal to raise sequester-level spending caps.
When pressed on the tax issue by CQ Roll Call, Earnest touted the Ryan-Murray agreement from two years ago, which did not include a tax hike, although it did include some fees.
"I don’t recall that a tax increase was associated with the Murray-Ryan agreements either," Earnest said when asked about not insisting on a tax increase as a prerequisite for a deal.
"What we have said is that that is the model that should be pursued," he added.
The White House also signed onto the big doc fix deal earlier this year — which included Medicare cuts and did not include a tax hike. Both President Barack Obama and Republican leaders have hoped a deal could be the start of a new era of dealmaking.
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has repeatedly ruled out considering any tax hikes in any talks to roll back the sequester, while for the first couple of years of the 2011 law that created it, Obama insisted on tax hikes as the price of a deal.
"It's encouraging," Boehner spokesman Cory Fritz said of Earnest's remarks. "Now the White House needs to show some leadership and begin signaling what types of mandatory spending reforms it's willing to accept."
Obama made hundreds of billions of long-term cuts in his budget proposal — enough to pay for years of relief from the sequester. Some of those cuts, including means-testing for future Medicare enrollees, were included in the doc fix deal.
The White House, of course, would prefer tax hikes on the wealthy, but they appear to be bowing to reality that they don't have the votes to enact them in an era where Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress and most have signed on to the anti-tax pledge of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.
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