Good News for a Deal?

A Washington Post article late last week detailed a number of current Republican members of Congress or Congressional candidates who are foregoing the "no new taxes" pledge circulated by Americans for Tax Reform. Signs that the seemingly ubiquitous pledge is fading in popularity are good for the purpose of getting a deal on deficit reduction that tackles all parts of the budget. Here's one example of a House candidate eschewing the pledge:

In Pennsylvania, Republican state Rep. Scott Perry said he was disappointed to see his party’s presidential candidates — all but one of whom signed the pledge — uniformly indicate in a debate last year that they would reject a deficit reduction deal that paired $1 in revenue increases for every $10 in spending cuts.

"I just think it’s imprudent to hem yourself in where you can’t make a good agreement that overall supports the things you want to do," said Perry, who said he generally opposes tax increases but recently won a Republican primary in a conservative district over candidates who had signed the pledge. "I just don’t see what the point of signing would be for me. . . . I’ve got a record, and everyone who wants to know where I’ve been and where I’m at can look to that."

A Massachusetts House candidate also was quoted as saying, "If there’s a loophole that can be closed that ends up generating additional revenue that can be used specifically to pay down the national debt, I’m not going to lose sleep. And I don’t want to be bound by the pledge not to close it." Certainly, it is positive to hear a candidate talking about looking at the merits of tax expenditures, rather than the revenue impact of limiting them.

Last year saw a symbolic victory over the pledge when a bill to eliminate an ethanol tax credit passed by an overwhelming majority in the Senate. As we said at the time:

The tension among conservatives over whether to defend tax expenditures has been great in the past few months, with observers wondering whether Republicans in Congress would support cutting them or side with Norquist and the no-new-taxes pledge. In this case, Senate Republicans have overwhelmingly sided with the former group, recognizing that tax expenditures are merely spending through the tax code. This opens the door to meaningful tax reform that could be part of a budget deal, and that is all around great news.

Everything will need to be on the table with regards to deficit reduction; in particular, we will need revenue increases in any bipartisan plan to get our debt back on a sustainable path. As former Sen. Alan Simpson said at the 2012 Peterson Fiscal Summit, "The only thing [Norquist] can do to you is defeat you for re-election or put some dud into your primary to take you out, and if that means more to you than your country, you shouldn't even be in Congress."