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Politics / congress

Democrats Gloomy, Republicans More Optimistic on Prospects for Super Committee

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the "super committee," led by Co-Chairs Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., center, meets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011, to hear from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf about the national debt. From left are, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., Hensarling, Murray, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Ariz., Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)](AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

October 6, 2011

In addition, while members of both parties have regularly advocated for tax reform as a critical part of deficit reduction, the Congressional Insiders Poll shows little agreement on some of the most commonly suggested reform proposals.

Which of these proposals for tax reform would you consider supporting?

Democrats
(31 votes)

Republicans
(24 votes)
Capping or ending the tax deduction for mortgage interest 35% 17%
Capping or ending the tax deduction for charitable contributions 35% 17%
Capping or ending the tax exemption for employer-provided health insurance 26% 8%
Establishing a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million per year 87% 8%
Volunteered:
None of the above
0% 46%
Volunteered:
Other
0% 25%


Democratic members' stated pessimism about the super committee's prospects lay largely in skepticism about their counterparts on the other side of the aisle.

"Unless the Republicans relent on taxes, there is no deal," said one Democratic Congressional Insider. Echoed another: "Republicans will never agree to the revenue necessary to reach an agreement."

Other Democrats pointed specifically to tea party-affiliated Republicans as the barrier to an agreement. "I cannot see how the outside tea party influence is going to go along with any cuts that are proposed."

But Republican Congressional Insiders maintained optimism that the process would push the super committee toward a plan.

"Everyone wants to count the super committee out, but that would be very premature," said one Republican member. Another explained, "The pain from the automatic cuts and the need by the president for borrowing authority through the next election will be the drivers."

Still, one Republican was less convinced, saying, "Their progress thus far doesn't exactly elicit confidence."

That progress isn't likely to be helped by any sort of Congressional unanimity around tax reform proposals. Despite general calls for tax code reform from both sides of the aisle, bipartisanship disappears when it comes to specifics.

Democratic Congressional Insiders were more open as a whole to the specific proposals surveyed, including reforms to the tax deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions, as well as to the exemption for employer-provided health insurance. But it was only the establishment of a new minimum tax rate for the super-wealthy - dubbed the "Buffett rule" by President Obama - that received majority support.

"Our tax system is way out of whack," said one Democratic member, "and it needs to reflect the fact that the richest people in the country have gotten richer - a lot richer - over the past couple of decades."

"I would not support any of them as stand-alone proposals but would consider them all (and many more) as part of a broader approach," said another.

"[The 'Buffett rule'] is the one that is doable," asserted another Democratic Congressional Insider. "We need to ask these folks to pay a little more. The American people have repeatedly said they want millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share."

Most Republican Congressional Insiders rejected those arguments. "The caps [on deductions and exemptions] would wreck key industries, destroying jobs, and the minimum-tax increase would destroy jobs," said one.

Many Republican members said that none of the proposals outlined fit their preferences for reform. "This question is way off base," said one. "The way you create more revenue is by broadening the base and introducing new rates, not implementing the president's nutty ideas."

"The entire tax code needs simplification and rebalancing," said another.

Nonetheless, a few Republicans found reform of some of the tax code's most common deductions to be worth considering.

"Closing and limiting many of these loopholes and deductions would broaden the base and allow Congress to lower tax rates for individuals and corporations - the type of tax reform that will help create jobs," said one Republican member of Congress.

"Revenue and tax expenditures must be on the table," agreed a Democratic member, "or the Democrats will balk, and the whole game is then at risk."

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