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Members Sign Letters That Advocate Different Directions for Super Committee

Updated: 5:55 p.m.

Seven Republican House Members have a message for the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction: Keep all revenue options on the table, but do not raise taxes.

The muddled message comes today as Reps. John Duncan (Tenn.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Mike Kelly (Pa.), Ron Paul (Texas), Phil Roe (Tenn.), Marlin Stutzman (Ind.) and John Sullivan (Okla.) signed on to a Republican Study Committee letter to the super committee urging members not to raise taxes but also signed the “go-big” coalition letter earlier this month encouraging the panel to put all options on the table.

The letters’ overlapping signatories indicate that although the go-big coalition is generally in favor of a grand bargain, some of its members may not vote for just any one.

The RSC letter, headed by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), states that the 72 Republican Members who signed it believe the super committee should under no circumstances approve a deal that includes tax increases, which they call “irresponsible and dangerous.”

“Increasing taxes on Americans would destroy jobs, erase all hope of an economic recovery, and simply serve to feed out-of-control spending in Washington,” the letter states. “Thus, as you continue the important task to reach a deficit reduction agreement, we ask that any policies the Joint Select Committee prescribes not increase Americans’ tax burden.”

The go-big letter, on the other hand, initiated by Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), asks that the panel keep all revenue options on the table in the search of a big bipartisan deal.

“To succeed, all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table,” that letter states.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), a go-big signatory, addressed a similar situation Wednesday, when asked why he and some of his fellow Republican Senate colleagues on the coalition had signed a letter by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) urging the super committee not to raise taxes.

The DeMint letter outlines their personal preference, but the lawmakers are “ready to make the compromises and build the solutions” needed for a large deal, Crapo said.

Indeed, the intent of the go-big coalition was to foster compromise, said group member Rep. Steven LaTourette.

“When I said everything needs to be on the table and the letter said everything … for me, I meant everything,” the Ohio Republican said. “I don’t think there has to be taxes, but likewise if there are taxes, I’d sign on to it.”

Not so for these Members.

Stutzman said he told Shuler before signing the go-big letter that he would not sign off on a tax rate increase because he does not believe that doing so would ultimately raise revenue.

“I’m completely open to talking about revenues and the increase of revenues from pro-growth polices,” he said today. “We need to find some general agreement that we will look at both sides of the ledger. But we’re trapping ourselves if we think that the only way to raise revenues is raise taxes. You can raise revenues by eliminating loopholes.”

Similarly, Roe said that now is not the time to raise taxes.

“I don’t think we should raise taxes when the economy is weak. I support simplifying our tax code and closing loopholes that amount to spending in the tax code, but I do not think this government has a taxing problem — it has a spending problem,” he said in a statement. “I do not believe we should raise taxes on hardworking taxpayers, rather work to achieve tax reform that will permanently lower rates on individuals and spur economic growth.”

Kelly said in a statement that Congress should both cut spending and raise revenues, but it should not raise tax rates.

“This week our nation exceeded $15 trillion of debt, which is an absolute embarrassment,” he said in a statement. “We need to raise tax revenue, but not tax rates. There’s a significant difference between the two. We can raise revenue by lowering tax rates, not increasing them, and by getting rid of various loopholes and deductions.”

Duncan would also nix a plan with tax increases, his spokesman said.

“Congressman Duncan primarily signed the go big letter because he believes we need to cut much more than $1.2 trillion; $4 trillion should be the very minimum,” spokesman Patrick Newton said. “He doesn’t support raising income tax rates, but there are ways to raise revenues without raising taxes.”

Gosar outlined his position in a Nov. 7 column on his website in which he wrote that although he approves of an all-options-on-the-table approach, he hopes that, ultimately, the outcome will skew toward spending cuts.

“I cannot stress enough that I do not, and will not, support a tax increase for hard-working Americans,” Gosar wrote. “The real way to raise revenues is to facilitate a stable economic environment that will spur job growth.”

His spokeswoman clarified today.

“We want [the super committee] to look at everything. But there’s no way in which a solution that involves raising taxes is something we’d vote for,” said Gosar spokeswoman Apryl Marie Fogel, adding, “It’s not inconsistent, in that he’s saying, ‘Look at everything and take the best cuts, take the best reforming entitlement programs, take the best deregulation. But the best option is not going to include tax increases.’”

Sullivan’s spokesman provided a similar answer.

“Rep. Sullivan supports going big on spending cuts. However, he is firmly opposed to any plan that raises taxes on the American people — especially given our current economic situation,” spokesman Vaughn Jennings said.

Simpson said the Members’ positions don’t necessarily go against the spirit of the coalition and that he knew going in that not every Member would support any big deal.

“I suspect there are people that signed our letter that if you went and said, ‘Look, we’re going to increase tax rates,’ would say, ‘No, that’s not what we want,’” he said. “People define ‘tax increase’ differently.”

Correction: Nov. 17, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Republican House Members who had signed both letters. It is seven.

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