Asked whether other Republicans on the supercommittee were open to tax hikes larger than the ones included in his plan, Toomey refuses to disclose remarks made behind closed doors. “I think the Republicans on the committee were . . . generally . . . [long pause] reasonably well united,” he says before refusing to elaborate further. Asked whether he worried about GOP lawmakers not on the supercommittee agreeing to tax hikes, he responds, “I think there are some Republicans in Congress who would have been willing, and who probably still are willing, to agree to very substantial tax increases. I think that is the wrong policy for many reasons, not least of which is that this country has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”
Toomey acknowledges that the reduction or elimination of deductions represents a concession, but adds that his reform package as a whole represented a dramatic win for supporters of limited government and free-market economics: give a little in one policy area, get a lot in other areas. He says:
The main motivation is that I have been and continue to be concerned that we’re headed towards the biggest tax hike in American history and we might very well not have the political ability to stop it,” Toomey says. “My reform proposal would have avoided that, and I think that’s a very big deal. Secondly, my plan didn’t merely call for making current rates permanent but rather called for solidly pro-growth tax reform that would actually lower marginal rates and offset the lost revenue with the contraction in the value of deductions — somewhat more than offset that, hence the $250 billion net scored revenue increase. I would argue that we should never have to pay for solid pro-growth policy, but clearly we’re going to have to pay if we’re going to get it, and in order to have that pro-growth policy and avoid a much bigger tax increase that is just fourteen months away, I thought we should be willing to pay that price. Yes, it was also contingent upon getting some substantive reforms in the biggest drivers of our long-term debt, the entitlement programs. But the biggest goal was to get that pro-growth policy.
Toomey has realized that for many congressional Democrats, tax hikes aren’t about increasing government revenue as much as punishing wealthy Americans, whom the Left has deemed morally objectionable no matter how they accumulated their wealth. “The most telling evidence of that was their response to the final offer we proposed, after they rejected my framework,” he says. “We went back and scoured many proposals and reform ideas — we included elements from the president’s own budget, Simpson-Bowles, Rivlin-Dominici. And we took the least controversial spending cuts and revenues — items such as asset sales, spectrum auctions, and asking banks to pay something closer to a market rate for Fannie and Freddie guarantees. That was a combination that added up to $644 billion — much of which was revenue — and they rejected it out of hand because it didn’t punish anyone! Sure it was revenue, and the spending cuts were relatively noncontroversial, but nobody was getting a tax increase. In the end, they wouldn’t agree to a single dime in spending cuts unless someone was getting whacked with a tax increase. And that does suggest some troubling motivations.”
With Toomey’s proposal a dead issue for now, Hewitt remains a fan of Toomey overall, but considers it an uncharacteristically unwise move on the senator’s part. “It wasn’t just that he wanted to raise taxes; he wanted to do so in an extremely harmful, anti-conservative fashion: by penalizing home ownership and charities (including every church in America), as well as [disregarding] federalism principles,” Hewitt says. “Anything so radical ought to be vetted by a large group of, not just legislators, but also the grassroots, including the Tea Party, before being put into play on a fast track. . . . These were unusual circumstances to be sure, but all Republicans have to remember that we are not a party of secret deals and Obamacare-like special carveouts done in quiet rooms full of moneyed interests.”