Toomey modifies his plan to include tax hikes on rich

GOP senator wants Democrats to agree to spending cuts, too

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WASHINGTON -- Tax hikes on the wealthy won't solve the impending fiscal crisis, said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., but he's willing to go there if it will get Democrats to agree to cut spending.

"This is a spending problem, a structural spending problem, and that's what needs to be fixed," he told Pennsylvania reporters on a conference call Monday. "But I acknowledge that elections have consequences and the president is fixed on raising taxes."

President Barack Obama has been touting a plan that would raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year.

The aim is to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" or $600 billion worth of tax hikes and spending cuts that, taken together, could devastate the national economy and send the country back into a recession.

Republicans like Mr. Toomey have reluctantly agreed to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but they won't entertain a separate vote on that measure alone. Rather they want the increase to be part of a sweeping package that also includes spending cuts.

"We don't have to slash and burn anything. We don't have to make draconian cuts that take effect tomorrow," Mr. Toomey said. Instead, he advocated for small changes to entitlement programs that add up to savings over time.

He said Republicans are compromising and that now it's time for Democrats to do so.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could not immediately be reached for a response.

Mr. Toomey said he has a plan that most lawmakers should be able to agree to. He first put a version of it on the table last year when he was a member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, an eight-member "super committee" that ultimately failed to agree on a plan.

That doesn't mean agreement can't happen now, said Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik.

"We're running out of time and this is a reasonable compromise based on the same principles of all the bipartisan commissions" that have drafted proposals to the fiscal crisis, she said.

Her boss's proposal calls for $750 billion in cuts -- mostly to Medicare and Medicaid -- along with $500 billion in new revenue from eliminating loopholes.

That framework could produce an agreement that avoids the fiscal cliff before time runs out on Jan. 1, Mr. Toomey said.

"We still have time to solve this problem," he said.

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Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: 703-996-9292 or tmauriello@post-gazette.com.


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