Rep. Tom Reed today joined the growing ranks of Republicans backing away from a decades-old pledge signed by nearly all federal GOP candidates in which they promised not to raise taxes in any way, shape or form.
In a conference call with reporters, Reed reiterated his willingness to increase federal revenues through limiting tax deductions.
And when asked about the tax pledge pushed by GOP activist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Reed said. "I would say the pledge is not a barrier to a deal," so long as any new revenue goes to pay off the national debt and so long as Democrats agree on an additional $1 trillion in debt reduction.
Reed's comments are significant because he is a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, which would be central in any tax reform, and because he was elected in 2010 as part of the tea party wave that gave Republicans control of the House.
While some old-school Republicans -- such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Pete King of Long Island -- have stepped away from the pledge in recent days, those first elected to Congress with tea party support in 2010 have been more reluctant to do so.
The pledge, which Reed signed, supposedly binds lawmakers to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses" and "oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."
In contrast to the pledge, "what we've said in the last few weeks is that we will consider revenue on the wealthier segment of American society and we are open to that and we'll continue to take that position," Reed said.
While President Obama has instead insisted on higher tax rates for upper-income wage earners, Reed said he is by no means alone in the GOP ranks in showing a willingness to raise revenues through limiting deductions.
"Our willingness, many of us on the Republican side of the aisle, to consider revenue is a positive sign in moving us to a potential deal" to avoid sending the nation over a so-called "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year, Reed said.
That's when tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush, along with other tax breaks enacted under Obama, are set to expire -- at the same time as a series of deep pre-programmed budget cuts are set to take effect. Economists such as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have warned that the combination of tax hikes and spending cuts could throw the nation back into recession.
While saying that Republicans have been willing to compromise on taxes, Reed added that Democrats have not replied in kind with an agreement to use that additional revenue to pay down the debt or to propose any further spending cuts. The lack of a Democratic response is causing him "great anxiety," Reed said.
As the only New York Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, Reed is in a position to be a player not only on the fiscal cliff, but also on a pending $30 billion request from New York State for aid in wake of Superstorm Sandy.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has invited the state's congressional delegation to New York today to discuss the request. Reed said he would not be attending and is not even sure if his staff saw an invitation, but he nonetheless pledged to fight for the aid package.
In the long term, though, such aid has to be offset by other cuts in the federal budget to make sure the deficit doesn't grow even further, he said.
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