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The Big Break? Taxes Remain Major Unknown In Potential Grand Deficit Bargain


A GOP aide with knowledge of the discussions insists that tax rate increases remain off the table, including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, but that Boehner may be amenable to a solution that simplifies and lowers individual and corporate tax rates, while ending preferences, loopholes, and expenditures -- including familiar beasts like subsidies for big oil companies -- and perhaps other reforms to be named later.

A similarly keyed-in Democratic aide confirms the options under discussion would result in new tax revenues. One option recently under discussion -- described here -- would reduce Social Security and federal pension Cost of Living Adjustments, but simultaneously generate billions of dolloars in new tax revenue every year.

This won't sit well with swaths of the Republican party. Asked if House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) would support a framework that involved significant new tax revenue, his spokesman Brad Dayspring said, "No, Eric doesn't support raising taxes."

It's still unclear how Obama and Boehner would reach such major spending cuts. Particularly unclear are the defense and domestic discretionary spending cuts being considered. On the entitlement side, perhaps in addition to the COLA changes, principles have discussed reducing provider payments or changing provider payment formulas in Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans have pushed fairly hard for further means-testing of Medicare -- either greater cost-sharing, or reduced benefits for more affluent seniors. Some top Democrats back this approach. But most have argued against any direct benefit cuts, and would likely balk if the new standards cut into benefits for too many people.

About The Author


Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at