Mitt Romney’s campaign tried on Monday to minimize the significance of ideas the presumptive Republican presidential nominee outlined to donors about what tax loopholes he would close and what federal agencies he would end or shrink.
“He was just discussing ideas that were coming up on the campaign trail. There wasn't any change in policy,” Jim Talent, a former Republican senator from Missouri, said on a conference call with reporters. “He wasn’t announcing a policy.”
Romney told contributors at a private fundraising event on Sunday in Palm Beach, Fla., that he would "probably eliminate" the second-home mortgage deduction for "high-income people," and that he would likely eliminate deductions for state income and property taxes. He also said he’d like to make the Education Department “a heck of a lot smaller” and might try to eliminate the Housing and Urban Development Department.
On the conference call, Talent said Romney put out a 59-point plan for the economy and “people were making fun of it because they said it was too detailed.” He added: “When a person has proposed as many detailed things as he has and has talked about as many issues as he has -- on the record -- you know he's entitled to focus on the idea's he's actually proposed.”
Romney has proposed a 20 percent cut in income-tax rates but has been vague until now about how he would offset the resulting loss of revenue. He’s also been reluctant to say how he’d shrink the federal bureaucracy.
“I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies … but I’m not going to give you a list right now,” Romney told The Weekly Standard this month. He said he was specific in his 1994 Senate campaign against then-Sen. Edward Kennedy and his plans were used against him in a misleading way.
The Obama campaign jumped on the new Romney remarks. “Governor Romney previously said he wasn’t going to outline specific cuts during this campaign because they could harm his electoral prospects,” spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement on Monday. “Last night’s comments make clear he does in fact have very specific cuts in mind: In order to fund his $5 trillion tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, he would make deep cuts in programs essential to the middle class like education and housing.”
LaBolt said Romney needs to release specific plans, more years of tax returns, the names of his major donors, and records from when he served as Massachusetts governor. He said Romney is trying to “play by a different set of rules” than what Americans expect and deserve.