- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2011

Congressional Republicans wasted no time Sunday dismissing the “Buffett Rule,” President Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on millionaires, a day before Mr. Obama was poised to outline measures to cut the federal deficit by some $2 trillion.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said raising taxes “is a bad thing to do in the middle of an economic downturn,” and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, called the proposal “class warfare.”

“We don’t want to stagnate this economy by raising taxes,” Mr. McConnell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We had that vote a couple of years ago when Democrats basically owned the Congress, they had overwhelming control of the Senate and the House, and it was defeated then.”

While Mr. Obama has tried to build momentum in Congress to act quickly to deal with the nation’s struggling economy, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat indicated Sunday that the Democrat-controlled chamber isn’t likely to take up Mr. Obama’s proposal until next month at the earliest.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said the proposed legislation had been submitted and was added to the Senate calendar by Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, but Mr. Durbin said a vote was unlikely this week. After this week, the Senate is in recess until Oct. 3.

The White House leaked some details Saturday of the tax proposal as well as spending cuts that the president plans to outline Monday morning, including the so-called Buffett Rule, named after billionaire investing guru and Obama supporter Warren Buffett, who has called repeatedly for higher taxes on the wealthy to help address the federal debt crisis.

The administration has not specified a rate or how much revenue the millionaires tax would raise, but the Buffett Rule is one of several changes to the federal income tax code that the president will propose as part of his plan to raise revenue and cut the deficit.

Mr. McConnell left room for compromise in his comments Sunday, saying Republicans were open to proposals to require means-testing in an effort to address the Social Security and Medicare long-term funding crisis.

“We’re not opposed to more revenue,” he said, but “the way you get more revenue is get the economy going.”

The minority leader said the president’s proposal sounds like another stimulus plan, and he took a shot at the blossoming controversy over a failed solar energy company that received large subsidized loans from the Obama administration.

“If you look at the stimulus bill … what did we get out of that? Turtle tunnels and [solar-panel maker] Solyndra. And now, he’s asking to do it again,” he said.

Republicans contend that Mr. Obama’s $800 billion-plus stimulus plan of 2009 failed to deliver the job growth that the administration promised. Citing what he called an old Kentucky saying, Mr. McConnell said, “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.”

Mr. Ryan, a leading GOP voice on Capitol Hill on budget issues, said in an appearance on Fox News that the president had made “constructive” comments about reforming entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

“He’s acknowledging that there’s a big problem with these programs. And he has made that acknowledgment a couple of times now, saying they’re going to go bankrupt if we don’t do something to fix them. That’s good.”

But he dismissed the proposed Buffett Rule.

“It adds further instability to our system, more uncertainty, and it punishes job creation,” he said. “Class warfare may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Durbin defended the administration and the tax proposal.

The tax, Mr. Durbin said, would affect only “those who are wealthy and comfortable and wouldn’t even notice it.”

Mr. Obama announced a $447 billion stimulus proposal last week and challenged Americans to contact members of Congress and urge them to “pass this bill” without “division or delay.”

“Right now, we’ve got to get Congress to pass this bill,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address Saturday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, made an appearance Sunday on CNN and slammed the proposal as “class warfare.”

“The reason people have little confidence in President Obama’s policies is they’re just not working,” he said.

Former President Bill Clinton, making the rounds of the Sunday news shows ahead of his annual Clinton Global Initiative gathering, which starts Tuesday in New York, defended the White House.

“What he’s saying about taxing upper-income people is what he’s always said. I don’t think that’s such a draconian thing. He basically is asking us to return to the tax rates of the ‘90s for the wealthiest Americans who have been the big beneficiaries of this last decade, which has been very tough on the middle class and low-income people,” Mr. Clinton said during an interview on CBS.

A handful of Democratic lawmakers have broken ranks on Capitol Hill and joined Republicans in criticizing the plan.

Even if the proposal fails, Obama supporters say, the shift to a more populist position could help boost the lowest job-approval ratings of his presidency.

Mr. Obama will lay out his recommendations at 10:30 a.m. in the White House Rose Garden.

Mr. Buffett, who has served as an adviser to the president, plans a Sept. 30 fundraiser in New York City for Mr. Obama’s re-election bid.

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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