WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of a powerful conservative voting bloc in the House of Representatives on Thursday warned against including tax or revenue increases in a deficit-reduction plan that is due by November 23.
“I am very concerned about anything that says ‘revenue’ because let’s just be honest; revenue for Democrats has become code for tax increases,” said Representative Jim Jordan in an interview with Reuters.
Jordan chairs the Republican Study Committee in the House, a group of 170 members who push a social and economic agenda that includes steep cuts in federal spending.
Last July, Jordan and other conservatives challenged their Republican leadership by briefly blocking House passage of a bill to increase U.S. borrowing authority. That measure was designed to avoid a potentially catastrophic default on government debt.
The rebellious Republicans ultimately won some changes in the legislation, although Jordan himself ended up voting against the measure that passed in early August.
Now, Democrats, who insist on some tax increases as well as spending cuts, and Republicans are fighting over yet another fiscal measure, with a “super committee” of Congress trying to find at least $1.2 trillion in new deficit reduction over 10 years.
Once again, Democrats might not be the only opponent that Jordan, a former college wrestling star, faces.
House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday told reporters that a limited amount of revenues could be included in a deficit-reduction deal.
A Boehner aide said those revenues could include ideas such as increasing government fees, selling government assets and raising co-payments in government healthcare programs.
Asked whether even these kinds of ideas would be problematic, Jordan said: “I think yes, although I just ... obviously we want to see” the specific language.
“I don’t think I‘m the only person in the Republican conference who is very concerned about just that term ‘revenue,'” Jordan said.
Indeed, in both the House and Senate, conservative Republicans on Thursday were gearing up a lobbying campaign against raising taxes in deficit-cutting efforts.
Jordan said House Republican leaders are beginning to talk with rank-and-file members about how a deficit-reduction deal could be struck as they scramble to break an impasse with Democrats.
Failure by a majority of the 12-member super committee would mean that across-the-board automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion begin phasing in at the start of 2013.
Jordan said he does not know whether the panel will succeed. “One day I think maybe we can actually get some real savings and do what we’re supposed to do and reduce spending, and then the next day I‘m worried ... there will be a tax increase in there,” Jordan said.
And that, he added, “Would be the worst possible thing that we could do -- raise taxes.” Even though U.S. revenues in relation to the size of the economy are at a decades-long low, most Republicans contend raising taxes would further dampen the economy and job creation.
With the pace of super committee negotiations going so slowly, some have wondered whether the panel might have to ask for an extension of its November 23 deadline -- a development that few believe will occur.
Asked whether he would back such an extension if it came to that, Jordan said, “I think not.” He added, “All I know is that the American people don’t get an extension to do their job. The $15 trillion (national) debt out there in our country highlights the fact that we should be addressing as soon as possible the fiscal mess we’re in.”
Editing by Vicki Allen