Blunt says tax hikes are out of the mix in budget-cutting talks
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 24, 2011 - As talks to cut the budget and raise the nation's debt ceiling teeter on the brink of collapse, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Friday that a push by Democrats for an increase in taxes is not going to happen.
The effort to come to an agreement on how to fund the federal government veered off course Thursday when Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House majority leader, abruptly withdrew from negotiations being conducted by Vice President Joe Biden.
He said he left the talks because of continued Democratic efforts to include tax increases as part of the package to help achieve $2 trillion in savings. A deadline to raise the debt ceiling is looming on Aug. 2.
Before speaking to a meeting of the Regional Business Council in Clayton, Blunt told reporters that President Barack Obama needs to come up with solutions to the budget and debt problems, but increasing taxes will not win approval among Republicans in Congress.
He noted that back in December, before the Republican majority took office in the House and the Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, the president said that "this is not an economy to raise taxes in."
"He couldn't get tax increases then," Blunt added, "and he is not going to get them now."
Asked what the solution to the stalemate might be, the freshman Republican said:
"I think it's the president's job to figure out what he has to do to get the debt ceiling increased. He's the president. It's his responsibility.
"If he can raise the debt ceiling with just Democrats, let him do that. But he's going to need Republican votes, and he's the guy who has to figure out how to get those Republican votes. There is no appetite for tax increases."
The White House said Friday that Obama would be meeting separately on Monday with Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to try to move the talks along.
On other issues, Blunt said:
- The administration's decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve is "all about election-year politics. It has nothing to do with energy." If the White House really wanted to do something to bring down stubbornly high gas prices, Blunt added, he would move to increase efforts to find more oil from U.S. sources.
- He has co-sponsored with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and John Kerry, D-Mass., a resolution on continuing to use American resources to support the NATO operations in Libya. It would enable the U.S. support to continue for a year without the White House having to come back to Congress. On Friday, the House rejected a resolution to authorize the U.S. military intervention in Libya, and it is expected to vote later in the day to cut off funding for the Libya conflict. But Blunt forecast that these efforts would not succeed in the Senate.
- With record crests predicted, this is a good time to revisit the 2004 master plan of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control on the Missouri River. He noted that flooding upstream, from Montana through North and South Dakota into Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas has prompted new concerns in those states that didn't seem too worried about flooding before.
Blunt said that the Corps needs to pay more attention to what should be its two top priorities on the river, flood control and navigation.
"We are not addressing those priorities as they are laid out," he said, "and I think you're going to see a lot of legislation and discussion on that subject."