Senator Schumer 'very heartened' by Boehner's 'fiscal cliff' speech

Sen. Charles Schumer, a key Democratic strategist, saw positive signs in House Speaker John Boehner's comments that he would consider closing tax loopholes to raise new revenue.

Michael Bonfigli/Christian Science Monitor
Sen. Charles Schumer, vice chair of the Democratic Conference and chair of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center, speaks at the Monitor Breakfast Thursday.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a key political strategist for his party, says he was “very heartened” by the tone of House Speaker John Boehner’s remarks Wednesday indicating he could accept a budget deal that included new federal revenue if it were linked to tax reform.

“I was heartened, very heartened, by the tone that Speaker Boehner showed yesterday in his remarks,” Senator Schumer said Thursday at a breakfast for reporters hosted by the Monitor. “He basically said that the president won the election and he should lead. He basically said he was open to revenues, which many in his own party disagree with.”

Boehner’s remarks focused on ways to avoid the so called “fiscal cliff.” It is a $700 billion combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts slated to take effect at the start of 2013.

While saying Boehner’s remarks make "me very hopeful that we can do something big in the next month and a half,” to deal with the fiscal cliff, Schumer was also quick to highlight areas of disagreement with the speaker’s comments.

“When you unpack the speaker’s speech, there is a premise that doesn’t quite work,” Schumer said. Boehner called for additional revenue “as the byproduct of a growing economy, energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code, with fewer loopholes, and lower rates for all.” The process of figuring out how much new revenue lower tax rates would produce is called dynamic scoring. It is a process opposed by Democrats and not utilized by the Congressional Budget Office.   

Schumer, vice chair of the Democratic Conference and chair of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center, called the idea that tax cuts lead to revenue growth “a Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. You may remember Rumpelstiltskin was the fairy tale figure who turned straw into gold.”

The New York senator said he hoped business executives would speak out more forcefully for action on the nation’s fiscal problems. “I am hopeful that with the business community’s help and with the president’s leadership, we can bring Republicans around. Because I think, in his heart, Speaker Boehner wants to get something done,” Schumer said.

The process will take time, he said, adding, "You can’t expect the speaker to turn on a time in 24 hours and embrace everything, higher taxes, higher taxes on the wealthy. But I think that privately he’s seen the handwriting on the wall, and it makes me very hopeful we can do something big in the next month and a half.”

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