Image: Romney, Gingrich, Perry and Santorum
Tim Kimzey  /  AP
GOP presidential candidates, from left to right, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum stand at the CBS News/National Journal foreign policy debate at the Benjamin Johnson Arena, in Spartanburg, S.C.
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updated 11/15/2011 2:45:27 PM ET 2011-11-15T19:45:27

The top Republican in the House says a recent proposal by GOP members of a special deficit committee is a "fair offer" despite criticism from conservatives who say it breaks the party's pledge on taxes.

"It's important for us in my opinion to reform the tax code," said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, adding that a tax overhaul would "make America more competitive and produce economic growth."

And a top GOP member of the panel got some words of support from House Republicans Tuesday morning after briefing rank-and-file Republicans on last week's GOP proposal, which called for a net tax revenue increase of almost $300 billion in exchange for significantly lowered tax rates.

Super committee wrestles with taxes, entitlements
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Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, co-chairman of the deficit panel said the badly divided group is still working in hopes of reaching an agreement.

"They haven't thrown me out, so I guess I got a good reception," Hensarling said of how House Republicans reacted to his status report on supercommittee talks. "I gave them an update, I told them we haven't lost hope yet but ... this week is crucial."

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The panel faces an official target of next Wednesday to approve a plan, but sometime this week is a more realistic deadline, given the realities of drafting proposals into legal language and getting them "scored" by congressional analysts to measure their impact on the deficit.

Hensarling, a stout conservative, got support from some of his colleagues inside a closed-door GOP caucus Tuesday morning. He pointed out that a far larger tax increase looms at the end of next year with the expiration of the Bush-era cuts in tax rates, investments, and breaks for married couples and families with children.

"I thought it was a very serious effort in trying to break a logjam and get a compromise," said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "Held up against the big tax increase coming, I'll take that any day.

But last week's GOP plan has gotten a cold shoulder from GOP presidential hopefuls like former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Campaigning in Iowa, Gingrich said he would "do everything in my power to defeat" any committee deficit-reduction plan that includes higher taxes.

Jason Miner, a spokesman for Perry, said the Texas governor "wants to look at details but if those details include a tax increase he's not going to be for it. He does not favor higher taxes."

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Some conservative Republicans are restive about last week's GOP proposal for higher tax revenues, which would be skimmed off the top in a future overhaul of the tax code that trades the elimination of many tax breaks for significantly lower income tax rates.

"I would still be concerned about any proposal that basically would violate a pledge on raising taxes," said Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.

The committee has been at work for two months, hoping to succeed at a task that has defied the best efforts of high-ranking political leaders past and present.

The principal stumbling blocks revolve around taxes, on the one hand, and the large federal benefit programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, on the other.

Democrats are unwilling to agree to cuts in benefit programs unless Republicans will accept higher taxes, particularly on the highest-income individuals and families.

"I'm willing to make significant inroads into, for example, some of the mandatory programs, which include Medicare and Medicaid, but that comes as part of a big deal where everyone shares in the sacrifice," said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., a liberal member of the panel.

Republicans counter that out-of-control spending largely accounts for the government's enormous budget deficits, and they say raising taxes will only complicate efforts to help the economy recover from the worst recession in more than seven decades.

At the same time, each side is grappling with the possible political consequences of the committee's work, with an eye on the 2012 campaign for control of the White House and Congress.

Story: House Republican leader says deficit deal likely

Liberal Democrats are highly reluctant to agree to curbs on programs the party long has been identified with, and last week members on the supercommittee jettisoned an earlier proposal to slow the rise in cost-of-living benefits for Social Security recipients.

The same goes for conservatives, many of whom fear the possible political cost of changing their positions in order to pursue a less-than-certain bipartisan compromise on deficit reduction.

Many GOP officeholders have signed a pledge circulated by Americans for Tax Reform not to vote for higher taxes. The organization is led by Grover Norquist, a conservative activist, although in comments to reporters Cantor suggested that influence by an outsider isn't the dominant concern.

"It's not about Grover Norquist. It's about commitments that people made to the electorate they represent, the people that sent them here. That's what it's about," he said.

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson, whose views carry weight with GOP lawmakers, weighed in Tuesday with a blunt attack on the proposed Republican compromise on taxes.

"The Republicans who back in June were telling us they would hold the line on tax increases have decided that they must have tax increases," Erickson wrote in a Tuesday morning post.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Super Committee stalled as deadline looms

  1. Closed captioning of: Super Committee stalled as deadline looms

    >> still the biggest sticking point.

    >> he is confident he could get support to change tax rates .

    >> i am convinced if there is in fact an agreement that it can pass. the offer that the republicans put on the table is a fair offer. reforming the code is a step in the right direction. the details of how we get there are dwroet be worked out.

    >> indeed yet to be worked out. democrats have said that the republican proposal is dead on arrival because it would lower taxes for the rich. democratic congressman is a democrat, of course, and a member of the super committee. and today you told reporters that you are pragmatically opt omystic. why?

    >> because we have seen a solution put on the table before, whether it was the simpson commission, t.e we have discussed what could become a good solution among the 12 of us on many occasion. we can get there it is just a matter of having the political will to do it.

    >> do you think there is political will? are you coming together along the margins so something could be brought forward to actually account for what it would do dollars and cents and have it be finished by the 23 which is spozedly the deadline?

    >> we could break the deadlock by tearing up the measures that prevent balance. it's not a matter of trying to figure out how to get there. we have seen the different elements of a good solution. it's a matter of having people break away from the grips. the grip that some folks are in that keep them from being able to come to the middle and come to a good commence solution.

    >> the washington post said in an editorial that they have achieved decorum but little else. is there anything else coming together or is this a case where democrats are saying we could achief it if the republicans wouldn't mess this up and republicans are doing the opposite and everyone is trying to avoid the blame for failure but failure is inevitable.

    >> i think we have had good conversation about what we could do in some of the mandatory conversations and we have had conversations about revenues as wellment within the conversations you can see the kernels of a good solution. but the difficulty is this. if they insist on being so akbressive in cutting benefits in medicare for seniors i hope they would be as ambitious in coming up with real revenue that come to that segment of the population. the rest of the republican public including the middle class have been hollowed out. we can get there it is just breaking the special interest pledges.

    >> congressman, just to get down to the bottom line here, come november 23 , which is next week, pre-thanksgiving, are we going to get a deal?

    >> we have had many chances to talk and we have been talking for quite some time. but the anytitime now to act is to come up with a plan. if we can shoot big, be bold, get a balanced plan that gets $4 trillion in savings, that would be the best. if we can at least do the 1.2 trillion. that would help us with the automatic cuts. i believe we can do it. the elements of a solution at 1.2 trillion or 4 trillion are there. we just have to stop with the gridlock that is really created with the special interest pledges that keep people from going to the middle.

    >> thank you very much congressman. thanks for being with us.

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