(Updates with Republican meeting in sixth paragraph.)
Nov. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Forty House Republicans joined with 60 Democrats to urge the supercommittee seeking a $1.5 trillion debt deal to include higher tax revenue and aim for a much larger package of $4 trillion.
The lawmakers’ letter demonstrates possible Republican support for revenue increases that have been a sticking point for the bipartisan, 12-member debt-reduction panel. Democrats have been unwilling to consider cuts in spending on entitlement programs such as Medicare unless Republicans agree to higher tax revenue.
Any deficit-reduction plan “has to be balanced,” Idaho Republican Representative Mike Simpson said at a news conference, choosing a word often used by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California to describe the kind of deficit-reduction package she would favor. Simpson, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, wouldn’t say how much new revenue should be included.
“What we are saying to the supercommittee is that certainly revenue has to be a part of this and there are different ways that you get revenue,” he said.
The committee is approaching its Nov. 23 deadline for reaching a deal. If it doesn’t agree or if Congress doesn’t adopt its recommendations, across-the-board spending cuts of $1.2 trillion to defense and domestic programs are to take effect in 2013.
With the deadline looming, the panel’s Republican members met with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky behind closed doors today. Afterward, participants declined to describe their discussions or say whether Republicans are weighing a new proposal to offer to Democrats.
“I wouldn’t want to say, but you can count the days,” said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican leader and a supercommittee member.
Last week, Republicans offered a $2.2 trillion plan that included $640 billion in revenue largely from raising Medicare premiums rather than the type of tax increases Democrats are calling for.
Simpson said he hopes to get more signatures on the letter to the committee. The House has 242 Republicans and 192 Democrats, with one seat vacant.
“All options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table,” the letter said. “The success of your committee is vital to our country’s future.”
The letter didn’t say whether Republicans would support income tax increases or the reduction of tax breaks to meet a revenue goal or what that goal should be.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said his boss “has always said that the joint committee has a big job to do, and he appreciates every member’s input.”
Boehner and other House Republican leaders have opposed increasing taxes as Congress and President Barack Obama have grappled with the debt issue.
The 60 Democrats signing the letter included Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. The lawmakers’ message to the committee is “don’t go small bore,” because a bigger plan is needed to create confidence in Congress and restore confidence in the U.S. economic system, he said.
--With assistance from Laura Litvan in Washington. Editors: Laurie Asseo, Don Frederick
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