Political fallout continues to abound from the revelation that the congressional supercommittee – created following the debt limit standoff this July – failed in its task of finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.
And while public perceptions of who’s to blame remain an open question, the central role of Pennsylvania’s junior Senator Pat Toomey in these negotiations after only eleven months in office is a story in and of itself.
The battle for hearts and minds
During the past week, a PR war has waged on Capitol Hill over the policy paralysis surrounding the deficit, with Democrats accusing conservative lawmakers of focusing solely on limiting government spending.
In response, Arizona Senator Jon Kyle took to the radio waves this Saturday to push back against charges that the supercommittee’s inaction was the result of Republican unwillingness to raise additional tax revenues.
Airing in an interview on New York’s WABC 770 AM, the Republican Senate Whip highlighted the proposal of Pat Toomey, who was appointed to the supercommittee by the GOP leadership in August.
The Keystone Compromise
Toomey succeeded in swaying reluctant Republican supercommittee members to support his package of spending cuts and revenue increases. However, he was unable to court support from Democrat appointees.
Speaking on Larry Kudlow’s radio program on November 26th, Senator Kyle touted the Pennsylvania senator’s attempt at deficit reduction.
“The only real news to come out of these negotiations was the so-called Toomey Plan, which all six Republicans [in the supercommittee] supported,” Kyle said.
He then elaborated on Toomey’s proposal to reform federal income taxes by lowering tax rates but eliminating deductions currently enjoyed by high income earners.
“It was tax reform…that would have lowered marginal rates [and] would have raised additional revenue to apply towards [reducing] the deficit – $250 billion worth. In fact all of that would have come from taxpayers in the top two brackets,” Kyle explained.
“So to say that Republicans were not willing to put new tax revenue on the table is just absolutely wrong. In fact, my counterpart the Democratic whip Dick Durban called this offer a breakthrough because it was different. It was a way to try to go partway to meet the Democrat demands for new taxes but without doing so in a way that would stifle economic growth.”
In addition to the $250 billion in taxes garnered from eliminating deductions for the wealthy, Kudlow and Kyle also noted that this figure understated the amount of revenue increases in the proposed package, with additional money coming from cost of living adjustments, across the board levying of government fees, and asset sales.
“It was $500 billion,” Kyle stated, quoting the cumulative increase in revenues in Senator Toomey’s deficit reduction package.
“That was a significant amount of new revenue and 300 [billion] of it roughly was taxes.”
A bright future
Though Toomey’s efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful, it is highly unusual for a senator who has spent less than one year in office to rise to become an integral part of such complex negotiations.
While he was unable to bring Democrats to the table, the decision to appoint Pat Toomey to the supercommittee confirms that the Republican leadership views the Pennsylvania senator as a rising star in the GOP.
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A free podcast of the Larry Kudlow Show – including his interview with Senator Jon Kyle – is available here
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