Earlier this week, Tom Coburn quit the Gang of Six negotiations in the Senate, saying that the bipartisan working group on the budget wanted to go in a substantially different direction than Coburn would travel. Given that context, Coburn’s essay in today’s Washington Post prompts a question — just where exactly did the Gang of Six want to go? Coburn argues in his article that conservatives are going to have to swallow some tax hikes to get the spending cuts they want (via OTB):
The public rightly prefers spending cuts over revenue increases, but numerous polls indicate the vast majority of Americans would support the only type of plan that would ever make it out of Congress and be signed into law: one that favors spending cuts over revenue increases but includes both.
Getting there, however, will require the Senate to put forward specific solutions and win public support for serious entitlement reform and tax reform.
Really? The polling I’ve seen indicates that voters don’t want tax hikes at all as a solution to the budget deficit. The latest came this week from The Hill, in which the largest plurality — 45% — wanted cuts alone. Only 28% were willing to personally pay higher taxes.
Coburn does frame this as the only “plan that would ever make it out of Congress,” but is that so? Republicans control the House and aren’t likely to vote for tax hikes at all. Democrats control the Senate, but a large number of them have to face voters, and they have to be cognizant of the national mood — especially after the object lesson delivered to their colleagues in the midterms about voter anger. Barack Obama might veto a budget without tax hikes, but producing that kind of a budget from Congress is more likely at this point than getting John Boehner to commit political seppuku by pushing through a tax increase even before fighting for spending cuts.
Coburn has done a great job in the Senate and is a serious, responsible conservative. I’d like to see him fight for a cuts-alone budget for a while, which is what I thought he was doing by quitting the Gang of Six. If Coburn couldn’t get them to go along with him on this level of compromise, then what the heck are they going to propose?