Politics & Government

S.C. GOP lawmakers against tax compromise

WASHINGTON — All five House Republicans in South Carolina’s congressional delegation joined 67 colleagues Thursday in insisting they won’t accept a deal on the deficit-reduction super committee that includes tax increases.

Just six days before the debt panel’s Nov. 23 deadline, the 72 GOP lawmakers sent a letter to its 12 members, among them House Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of Columbia, S.C., vowing to resist any effort to use “increased revenues” – Washington code for tax hikes – to help lower the federal deficit.

“Increasing taxes on Americans would destroy jobs, erase all hope of an economic recovery and simply serve to feed out-of-control spending in Washington,” the Republican representatives wrote.

With more anti-tax signers than any state except Texas and Tennessee, South Carolina’s four freshman Republicans and Rep. Joe Wilson are positioned to reprise their summertime roles as spoilers in the debt-ceiling crisis, when they forced Speaker John Boehner to pull a compromise bill from the House floor.

“We’re not $15 trillion in debt because we tax Americans too little,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Laurens, S.C., Republican, told McClatchy on Thursday. “We’re $15 trillion in debt because we spend too much money.”

Congress on August 2 enacted a law that raised the federal debt limit in exchange for mandated future deficit reductions.

The law set up a “super committee” with six Republicans and six Democrats, three from the Senate and three from the House, and gave it until Nov. 23 to recommend at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years.

If the panel fails to reach a deal by next Wednesday, or if Congress doesn’t approve its recommendations by Dec. 23, cuts totaling $1.5 trillion would be imposed, to be split equally between defense and non-military programs.

Clyburn said Thursday the chances were “50-50” the super committee would reach an accord by Wednesday. Asked when he last had a productive conversation with a GOP member of the panel, he chuckled and disappeared into a closed-door strategy session with other Democrats.

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, a panel member elected to the Senate last year with the aid of major campaign contributions from Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, is floating a plan that would raise taxes by $400 billion over a decade, mainly by closing loopholes and eliminating deductions for wealthy filers.

Toomey’s proposal would also lower the tax rates in the IRS code’s four main income tiers, increase other revenues through entitlement program reforms and impose $800 in spending cuts to produce a net deficit-reduction of $1.2 trillion as Congress required in creating the panel.

But the five House Republicans from South Carolina stood staunch against any tax increase.

“We must create a healthy and productive environment for our job creators, and raising taxes simply does not do so,” said Rep. Tim Scott, a North Charleston, S.C., Republican. “While it may seem counterintuitive, lowering taxes actually increases government revenues by providing more opportunity for American families.”

DeMint, with Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, released a plan Thursday evening to reduce the deficit by $5 trillion from 2012 through 2021.

The plan achieves $2.3 trillion in cuts by setting benefits for Medicaid, welfare and other social programs at 2007 levels plus inflation. Another $519 billion is gained by eliminating payment of the child and earned-income tax credits if they exceed the amount of tax owed.

“If we simply cut obvious waste, eliminate low-priority spending, and implement commonsense reforms, then we can stop over $5 trillion in unnecessary spending,” DeMint said.

Paul, who DeMint also helped gain Senate election last year with large campaign donations, said “presented here is four times the deficit reduction needed to meet (the panel’s) goals.”

The 72 GOP lawmakers sent their letter to the super committee a day after a bipartisan group of more than 150 representatives and senators urged the panel to “go big” by reducing the deficit by $4 trillion, with tax increases, spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

That package is similar to President Barack Obama’s call for a balanced mixture of new tax revenue, spending cuts and changes to Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement programs.

The power struggle between the two groups pitted two North Carolina lawmakers against each other.

Rep. Heath Shuler, a third-term Waynesville, N.C., Democrat, helped assemble the “go-big” group of 150-plus lawmakers.

“The time is now for the super committee to be brave and go big,” Shuler said.

Shuler is opposed by Rep. Patrick McHenry, a fourth-term Cherryville, N.C., Republican who organized the anti-tax initiative signed by 72 lawmakers.

“Tax increases aren’t going to get our economy back on the right track,” McHenry said. “We need real solutions to address runaway spending. Raising taxes will only further damage the economy, discourage private sector investment and hurt Americans struggling to make ends meet.”

Despite his strong campaign support for Toomey last year, DeMint on Nov. 3 sent the super committee a letter, signed by 32 other Republican senators, opposing any “net tax increase” as part of its eventual deal.