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John Cornyn: Super Committee Not Hurting GOP Chances in 2012

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

CNBC television host Larry Kudlow, an ardent supporter of tax reform, said in an Investor’s Business Daily column today that Republicans would be better off politically if the super committee failed, rather than if they helped to craft a deal based on the Toomey plan, of which he is skeptical even on policy grounds.

“A super tax hike would irreparably split the GOP,” Kudlow wrote.

Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt has voiced similar fears. In a blog post, he referred to Toomey and super committee Co-Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) as the panel’s “two Republican tax raisers,” admonishing them for veering away from the anti-tax platform the Congressional GOP ran on in 2010.

“This political disaster should be avoided, even though it means a long fight over the disastrous Department of Defense sequestration,” wrote Hewitt, a defense hawk.

Opponents charge that the tax reform component is insufficient, worry about the hit on tax deductions for higher earners and complain that it generates too much revenue and not enough spending cuts.

Still, Cornyn defended the Toomey plan, saying it is just the kind of tax reform Republicans have been advocating for years. He acknowledged that reducing or ending popular tax deductions like those on home mortgages and charitable contributions could be problematic for some voters. But the Senator said the plan avoids tax increases that impede economic growth while shielding the middle class.

But conservatives are “livid about the Toomey plan, because the bedrock of the Republican Party is to stop tax hikes,” according to one Republican Congressional aide, who added that conservatives are skeptical that the revenue generated by the proposal would be applied to deficit reduction and a slimming of size and scope of government. And some fear that any intraparty rift, should one develop and persist, could bleed onto the Senate campaign trail.

Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), who recruits and funds Republican Senate candidates through his Senate Conservatives Fund political action committee, said today that he would not support “any new tax increases,” although he left the door open to backing a plan that increases revenue by reforming the tax code.

DeMint said he would, at a minimum, hold new candidates to that standard. A deal including increases in taxes is “a problem for us. Certainly the candidates we would support through the Senate Conservatives Fund will be against new taxes,” the South Carolinian said.

However, it is unclear whether he would hold his current colleagues to the same level of ideological purity. DeMint would only say that “current incumbents are another matter” when asked whether he would endorse colleagues who vote for a deal that includes tax increases of any sort.

DeMint has walked a fine line when it comes to his Senate colleagues in recent years and has routinely been accused of backing primary challengers to other Republicans, most notably former Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah). DeMint, however, has steadfastly denied those complaints. He and Cornyn were often on opposite sides of GOP primaries last cycle, although each has made an effort to cooperate in 2012.

John Stanton contributed to this report.

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