Sen. Coburn: Raising tax revenue may be necessary

Debt Commission member Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., right, speaks during a meeting of the commission on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010. Fellow Commission member Andrew Stern is at left. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

As many as 237 members of the House and 41 senators have signed a conservative pledge not to raise taxes, but one conservative senator suggested Sunday that it's time to break that pledge.

Changing the tax code to increase federal tax revenue "would be fine with me," Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

Coburn is part of the "Gang of Six," a bipartisan group of senators attempting to come up with a plan to address the nation's deficit and debt problems. Along with Coburn, the group includes Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

While declining to give too many details of the plan-in-progress, Coburn said Sunday that the group is not talking about including tax rate increases. He said, however, there are other ways to raise revenue, such as taking away tax credits.

Eliminating certain tax credits would violate the pledge Coburn and several of his colleagues have signed with the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform.

Coburn said he was more concerned about his pledge to uphold the Constitution than a "pledge from a special interest group who, who claims to speak for all of American conservatives when, when in fact they really don't."

"The fact is, is we have enormous urgent problems in front of us that have to be addressed, and they have to be addressed in a way that will get 60 votes in the Senate, a majority vote in the House, and something that the president will sign," he continued. "And that's our problem with where we are today."

Conrad, also appearing on "Meet the Press," pointed out that revenue as a share of national income is the lowest it has been in 60 years, while spending as a share of national income is the highest it has been in 60 years.

"So you got to work both sides of the equation," he said.

Solutions for deficit reduction are central to two upcoming issues in Congress: the vote to raise the debt limit, and the 2012 budget.

The U.S. Treasury is expected to hit its current debt limit, at $14.3 trillion, in the coming months. If Congress failed to raise the limit, the U.S. could end up defaulting on its loans.

Some Republicans, however, are insisting that plans for deficit reduction and spending cuts are tied to the debt limit vote.

On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said he will not vote for an increase to the debt limit unless he is convinced Democrats have committed to "comprehensive" and "broad-based" cuts to federal spending.

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