U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey
By now, most folks in Pennsylvania know that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (commonly known as the supercommittee) did not meet its goal of finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. To say that I am disappointed is a huge understatement.
As one of the 12 members of the supercommittee, I approached our assigned task with cautious optimism. I knew that finding a bipartisan agreement would be a challenge. Nevertheless, I felt that the committee presented an invaluable opportunity to put our federal government on a sustainable fiscal path, and we could not afford to waste it.
From the outset, I laid out two fundamental and fairly noncontroversial principles to guide our discussions. The first was simple: Produce a proposal that achieves the committee’s goal of deficit reduction. The second was less obvious, but just as important: Any deficit-reduction proposal must encourage the job creation our economy desperately needs. With the country’s unemployment still too high, the last thing we needed was a proposal that would weaken our already struggling economy.
I also believed that our unique circumstance called for a unique compromise. Bipartisan commissions had come and gone before the supercommittee and failed. If Republicans and Democrats huddled in their respective corners and refused to budge, the biggest losers in this process wouldn’t be the so-called supercommittee — it would be the American people.
That is why I drafted a proposal that put a genuine compromise on the table on the spending and the revenue sides of the equation. On the spending side, Republicans identified several trillions of dollars in sensible, responsible reductions that would have solved our fiscal crisis. In the face of fierce Democratic opposition, we agreed to scale back our proposal to just $750 billion in cuts over the next decade — less than 2 percent of what our government is projected to spend during the next 10 years.
On the revenue side, we offered a plan that would reform our broken tax code and create millions of jobs in the process. The proposal replaced our current monstrosity of a tax code with a simpler and fairer version that would have lowered tax rates for all Americans while eliminating special-interest deductions, write-offs and loopholes. This proposal would have spurred our small businesses to expand and hire workers and encouraged creative, hardworking Americans to open new businesses.
Furthermore, this reform would have been permanent so job creators nationwide would know they would not be subject to the biggest tax hike in American history, which is looming a mere 14 months away.
Finally, we offered to meet our Democratic colleagues part way, proposing to use this tax reform as a way to generate tax revenue for deficit reduction. Even the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate described my compromise offer as a “breakthrough.”
Unfortunately, my Democratic colleagues on the Joint Select Committee weren’t interested, insisting on a minimum of a $1 trillion tax increase.
My Republican colleagues and I felt that imposing a $1 trillion tax increase on our struggling economy would be devastating to our already overburdened workers and businesses — and thus a clear violation of one of the two principles I laid out from the beginning.
Even though the supercommittee is done, I don’t intend to give up. Through the course of many conversations, we developed many common-sense ideas that I will bring to my Democratic and Republican colleagues who did not serve on the supercommittee.
I hope to work with members on both sides of the aisle to find ways to reduce our deficit without crushing our fragile economy.
Pat Toomey is a Republican senator from Pennsylvania. He was one of 12 members of the recent Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.