Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stepped into the budget negotiations fray Wednesday daring Congress to hit the “reset button” and consider tax hikes alongside spending cuts if they’re serious about reducing the deficit.
The third-ranking Senate Democrat said the Republican spending-cut plan won’t tackle the deficit and called for additional “revenue raisers,” like letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans, and closing tax-code loopholes, at a Wednesday morning speech to the Center for the American Progress Action Fund.
“It is the path that was taken by both George Bush Senior, and then by Bill Clinton. Both presidents combined discretionary spending reductions with revenue raisers and mandatory spending cuts,” said Schumer.
Schumer said that if House Republicans are serious about tackling the deficit, they need to reconsider the $600 billion in Bush-era tax cuts that were renewed in December.
“Letting the tax cuts expire for the top two percent of income earners—we’re talking about only 315,000 people here—is not only a popular thing to do; in my mind, it is the right thing to do,” said Schumer. “It is not a substitute for cutting, but at some point in the near future, it needs to be a part of the solution.”
Schumer’s comments came just hours before the Senate was expected to vote on two budget bills, neither of which is expected to make it to the president’s desk. One is a proposal crafted by House Republicans that would cut $61 billion from the budget. The other is a bill supported by Senate Democrats that includes only $10.5 billion in cuts. If Congressional leaders don’t negotiate a budget deal before March 18, the government will run out of money.
Schumer’s call for tax reform will be a tough sell, since many Republicans have already said they oppose tackling tax reform while negotiating a budget.
During Schumer’s speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to rule out tax increases as a possible solution to the country’s budget woes.
“And let me just add that paying lip service to the threat caused by the deficit is not a substitute for responsible leadership, and that job-destroying tax hikes on small businesses and American families are not the answer to out-of-control Washington spending,” said McConnell.
The New York Democrat also ticked off a list of potential targets for spending reductions, such as Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) proposal to cut 5 percent from the legislative branch budget. He also pointed to redundant government programs outlined in a GAO report requested by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that showed billions of dollars in duplicative costs.
“We understand the need to go further, and there are options for deeper discretionary cuts at our disposal in the list of terminations and reductions proposed in the President’s budget,” said Schumer. “There are other places to look for discretionary savings as well.”