Republicans on the budget deficit reduction supercommittee are willing to brook bigger tax increases than previously indicated if Democrats will accept larger cuts in entitlement spending, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a conservative Republican who co-chairs the panel, told reporters Wednesday, The Hill
On Tuesday, he said Republicans “have gone as far as we feel we can go” in their offer to countenance $250 billion in new tax revenues. But on Wednesday, Hensarling said Republicans are “more than happy to negotiate” a new offer from Democrats, leaving out the $250 billion figure.
“I’m waiting for the Democrats to put fundamental reform on the table,” he said. “I’m not going to negotiate against myself. That is one offer we have put on the table that they can accept.”
Hensarling urged Democrats to provide a plan with comprehensive reform of Medicare, Medicaid, and healthcare spending in general.
Republicans have made “multiple offers,” Hensarling said. He declined to identify any outside of the one that already has been revealed, a proposal from Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
Hensarling says Democrats should accept a Medicare proposal from the bipartisan Rivlin-Domenici commission, which would partially shift Medicare to a premium support system. Democrats have opposed that idea as privatization of Medicare.
Republicans face some political pressure, given that supercommittee failure would trigger automatic reductions in defense spending and Medicare. Democrats would surely try to blame Republicans for the cuts. The supercommittee has a deadline of Nov. 23 to submit a proposal to cut the budget deficit by at least $1.25 trillion over the next 10 years.
“I give my Democratic colleagues credit for at least putting some reforms on the table, but they do not solve the problem,” Hensarling said. Until that happens, there’s nothing Republicans can do. “We’re not changing this offer we have on the table,” he said.
Hensarling stressed the GOP’s flexibility. “I’m not rejecting any offer out of hand — quite the opposite,” he said.
President Barack Obama needs to get involved, too, Hensarling says, insisting that the president must clarify what he will and won’t accept.
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