When a prominent Republican senator is praised as a “compromiser” in mainstream publications, conservatives start grinding their teeth. The Right has no shortage of sarcastic terms for conservative candidates who shift leftward once elected — “going Washington,” “growing in office,” “Strange New Respect.” Once a half-dozen Republicans were named to the supercommittee, conservatives looked for the weakest link, the lawmaker most likely to acquiesce to a Democratic plan that included tax hikes. The one they probably suspected the least was Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, a tea-party favorite and former president of the anti-tax activist group Club for Growth.
So when Toomey offered a proposal that included billions in new “revenue,” he raised eyebrows among fiscal conservatives, as his idea represented a significant concession. The Toomey plan included $250 billion in revenues from eliminating or reducing tax deductions for the top two income brackets (which start at $174,400 for those filing singly and $212,300 for those filing jointly in this tax year). The plan also included $100 billion in “non-tax revenues,” described as user fees and asset sales.
Some conservatives lambasted the proposal; Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist labeled it “poison,” and nationally syndicated radio host Hugh Hewitt blogged that Toomey was driving the GOP toward a crack-up:
Any deal like Toomey’s would greatly injure the chances of gathering the sort of energy necessary to recreate the 2010, 1994 or 1980 sweep because it would be an obvious indictment of the credibility of the House and Senate GOP, not one member of which ran on such a platform last year. [Supercommittee member and Texas Republican Rep.] Jeb Hensarling and Pat Toomey have been frequent guests on my radio show over the past couple of years, and both are sound conservatives. Neither of them ever appealed for support or votes or campaign contributions so they could go to D.C. and cripple the housing market and everyone’s home value by limiting the mortgage interest deduction on so-called high-end homes. Neither of them urged capping the charitable deduction so that churches, synagogues, hospitals and tens of thousands of other non-governmental agencies would see contributions decline. Neither of them urged that state and local taxes be made non-deductible so that those Americans already bearing the highest costs of government would bear even more. They didn’t do so. No one did. . . . They were not sent there to be part of the all-knowing, all seeing Committee of Oz.
However, as more details of the committee’s closed-door deliberations dribble out, it appears Toomey’s plan may well have saved the GOP from worse alternatives. Evidently, some congressional Republicans — on and off the committee — were amenable to tax increases significantly larger than the ones in Toomey’s plan.
Last month, Politico reported that “leaders have discussed options that would commit to adding $600 billion in true tax receipts — most of which would come from future reforms backed by [House Speaker John] Boehner and [supercommittee member Dave] Camp.” In November, Fred Barnes reported on a “Plan B” put forth by Democrats that would consist of roughly $600 billion in spending cuts and $600 billion in tax hikes, and remarked, “Conservatives are worried three Republicans on the super-committee — House members Dave Camp and Fred Upton and Senator Rob Portman — might accept Deal B as a last resort.”