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John Cornyn: Super Committee Not Hurting GOP Chances in 2012

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) dismissed suggestions today that Republican hopes of taking control of the Senate next year could be imperiled by the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction negotiations.

Congressional conservatives are moving to sink a tax reform and revenue blueprint hatched by super committee member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), with conservative activists and commentators warning that it could split the party and depress voter support for GOP Senate candidates in 2012.

But Cornyn, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, said he has seen no sign of blowback and rejected claims that the Toomey plan would damage GOP prospects for winning the Senate.

“I’m not concerned about it,” Cornyn told Roll Call during a brief interview. “The thing that could hurt Republicans even more would be that we would appear to be completely unwilling to participate in a negotiated settlement of this dispute.”

Cornyn said the NRSC has received no complaints from donors or political allies in response to the Toomey plan, arguing that it has been a positive development from his perch as the GOP’s chief Senate strategist. However, Cornyn made clear that he prefers no agreement to a bad deal. The Republicans, eyeing a favorable map at this point in the cycle, need to win a net of four seats to flip the chamber from Democratic control.

“What I hear from our supporters is, if we can get something important done, I’d be willing to do more to help toward the solution. But what that doesn’t mean is we want to raise the financial burden on the very people we’re depending upon to create jobs,” Cornyn said. “But the point is, I think the American people want to see that our political system is capable of producing a satisfactory product, and right now that seems to be in some doubt.”

Toomey, the former president of the conservative anti-tax organization Club for Growth, authored a plan to lower tax rates for all income brackets beyond the current Bush-era levels — and make the change permanent — while either eliminating or curtailing various tax deductions for higher earners only. The plan, scored as generating tax revenue, also included significant entitlement and other reforms typically opposed by Democrats.

Super committee Democrats declined to embrace the proposal absent significant changes, leaving its viability in serious doubt. But that hasn’t stopped more than 70 House Republicans from circulating a letter in opposition. Nor has it allayed the concerns of conservatives off Capitol Hill, who compare it to when President George H.W. Bush compromised with Congressional Democrats on a budget that raised taxes, breaking a campaign promise in the process. He lost re-election in 1992.

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