Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), center, pictured with other conservative lawmakers… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)
The GOP’s anti-tax stance got a hefty boost Thursday as 33 Senate Republicans – including three members of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" -- warned the congressional super committee against raising new tax revenue to meet its $1.5-trillion deficit reduction goal.
The message was taken as a blow to efforts to put both tax hikes and spending cuts on the table as the super committee struggles to meet its Thanksgiving deadline.
Republicans have been steadfast in their refusal to raise taxes, and Democrats are only willing to engage in cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs if new revenues are part of the mix. Earlier this week, 40 House Republicans were among 100 lawmakers who urged the super committee to consider all options -- a move that had been seen as an opening in the partisan standoff.
Thursday’s letter from the GOP senators and released by conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) urged the super committee to balance the budget in the next 10 years "with no net tax increase."
Even though more than a dozen GOP senators did not sign the letter, that it won approval from budget hawks from the Gang of Six only adds to the partisan divide. The Gang of Six was a group of three Democratic and three Republican senators who had worked for months this year on a framework to reduce the nation’s deficits.
Most Republicans in the House and Senate have signed an anti-tax pledge with conservative activist Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, and have been reluctant to break the promise in advance of an election year.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) downplayed the influence Norquist has on lawmakers.
But Democrats say the party is beholden to the anti-tax stalwart.
"This is all about whether they are willing to break free from their super-secret sorority handshake with Grover Norquist," said a Democratic aide, "and thus far the answer has been a resounding no."