In remarkably colorful terms, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) on Sunday lashed out at members of his party for their unyielding opposition to new tax revenues, whom he described as stymieing a debt reduction agreement.
“I guess I’m known as a RINO now, which means a Republican in name only, because, I guess, of social views, perhaps, or common sense would be another one, which seems to escape members of our party,” said Simpson, a co-chair of President Obama’s fiscal commission, on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”
“For heaven’s sake, you have Grover Norquist wandering the earth in his white robes saying that if you raise taxes one penny, he’ll defeat you,” he added. “He can’t murder you. He can’t burn your house. The only thing he can do to you, as an elected official, is defeat you for reelection. And if that means more to you than your country when we need patriots to come out in a situation when we’re in extremity, you shouldn’t even be in Congress.”
The failure on Capitol Hill to agree on the parameters of a sustainable fiscal vision has been the topic of lots of finger-pointing. As the conventional wisdom goes, Republicans refuse to budge on taxes and Democrats refuse to budge on safety-net programs. Democrats, however, speak often about the need to cut entitlement spending as part of a balanced deal, while Republicans maintain that new taxes are unacceptable.
“You can’t cut spending your way out of this hole. You can’t grow your way out of this hole. And you can’t tax your way out of this hole. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, we tell these people. This is madness,” Simpson said. “If you want to be a purist, go somewhere on a mountaintop and praise the East or something. But if you want to be in politics, you learn to compromise. And you learn to compromise on the issue without compromising yourself. Show me a guy who won’t compromise and I’ll show you a guy with rock for brains.”
The Simpson-Bowles commission’s work comprised of policies worth trillions in long-run deficit reductions by way of deep domestic spending reductions, cuts to safety-net programs like Medicare and Social Security, and new tax revenues.
Simpson characterized Obama as flexible but caught in a no-win situation.
“If he had embraced our plan, he would have been ripped to shreds,” the former senator said. “[H]e would have been ripped by the Democrats, say, why, you rotten — you’re digging into these precious, precious Medicare. And the Republicans would have rejected — if he’d have embraced it, the Republicans en masse in the House would have rejected it. So either way, he’s going to get hammered. So he is playing the waiting game.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.