11/20/2012 05:40 pm ET Updated Nov 21, 2012

Rob Portman Says Democrat Position On Tax Rates Based On 'Dogma'

WASHINGTON -- A senior Republican senator on Tuesday accused House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- and President Obama by extension -- of basing their tax policy position on "Democrat dogma."

"I saw Nancy Pelosi's comments … saying you can't get enough revenues through the itemized deductions and closing loopholes. That's just not accurate. I mean, it's just not accurate. You can," Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told The Huffington Post.

"You can get more revenue if you wanted to. So I don't know where her math is coming from. It sounds to me like it's more just a matter of Democrat dogma that they want to be sure that people's tax rates go up," Portman said in a phone interview.

"The problem with that is, it's going to result in more lost jobs at a time when we've already lost too many. Rates do affect people's behavior. They do make the small business owners I was with today less likely to take a risk, make an investment, add the job, buy the truck," he said.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, said on Sunday that she would not support any solution in ongoing tax and budget talks to raise more federal revenue by capping deductions for high-income earners rather than raising their marginal rates.

"Just to close loopholes is far too little money … If it's going to bring in revenue, the president has been very clear that the higher income people have to pay their fair share," Pelosi said on ABC's "This Week."

But there are ways to get enough revenue from capping deductions to make the solution to the year-end "fiscal cliff" revenue neutral. The Tax Policy Center, the think tank that came under attack from conservatives after it said that former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's tax plan would hurt the middle class, has laid out a series of options for capping deductions to meet different revenue targets.

"There are ways, crude as they are, to hike taxes on the wealthy without raising their rates as much as Obama would like," wrote TPC's Howard Gleckman.

But Gleckman also explained that in a broader strategic framework, giving in to Republican demands that tax revenues increase through capping deductions could weaken Obama's hand in negotiations over a long-term deficit and spending reduction agreement, which is likely to be hammered out next year.

"A cap would only fill the hole left by preserving the low rates now enjoyed by the wealthy," Gleckman wrote. "Thus, revenues from such deduction limits would no longer be available to help reduce the long-term deficit—a job that would then be more heavily weighted to spending cuts. And that may be the real reason why Obama is reluctant to use this tool in the short run."

Obama ran on the position that he would raise rates on those making more than $250,000 a year, and so he has a strong hand to play. To be competitive in the battle over how to raise revenues, Republicans might need to stand up and say loudly that they are in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy, just by a different method than the Democrats.

So far, however, the GOP has more or less skulked around the fact, apparently concerned that it might compromise its identity as the anti-tax party.



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