WASHINGTON - Two freshman Republicans in the Indiana congressional delegation are not ruling out supporting a package from the congressional deficit super committee if it includes provisions to increase revenues.
But if the panel is able to agree to a proposal before its Nov. 23 deadline, there will be some soul searching on Capitol Hill – especially among House freshmen – about the definition of a tax increase.
The group of newcomers who helped the GOP take over the House in January once again finds itself in a pivotal position in the debate over how to reduce the federal budget.
One of the ideas on the table during the Super Committee’s deliberations – offered by Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa. – would include about $300 billion in revenues to go along with about $800 billion in spending cuts. It also would reduce some deductions and loopholes while making the Bush administration tax cuts permanent, a provision that draws Democratic opposition.
The proposal has attracted attention because Toomey is a former president of the Club for Growth, a conservative organization that has led the charge against Republicans it deems insufficiently conservative.
Rep. Todd Young, R-9th CD, said that he would entertain boosting revenue as long as a plan also addressed the restructuring of entitlement spending.
“If there is a strong first step toward refocusing and making sustainable Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid and, secondarily, any new revenue projected to come into the federal coffers is a product of simplifying our tax codes or increasing the rate of economic growth in our country, I would (consider) such a proposal,” Young said.
But, he added, “The real focus should be on spending cuts.”
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd CD, said that he could live with a plan that included higher tax revenues but would oppose one that boosts rates.
“This is about tax rates, not about revenue increasing,” Stutzman said. “I need to see what the final product is. I think Toomey is trying to get something out of nothing. If that’s what the Super Committee presents, we’d take a serious look at it.”
The two other Hoosier House Republican freshmen – Reps. Todd Rokita and Larry Buschon – did not respond to interview requests.
Exactly what the Super Committee is doing remains a secret. Despite pledges of transparency when it was formed in August, its negotiations have occurred behind closed doors.
The bipartisan, bicameral panel consisting of six Republicans and six Democrats was created by a provision of legislation approved over the summer that lifted the U.S. debt ceiling. The group must come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years by Nov. 23, and Congress must vote on the proposal by Dec. 23. Failure would result in automatic budget cuts totaling $1.2 trillion.
No one – probably not even the members of the Super Committee – knows how or whether they’ll reach their target by Thanksgiving eve. In the meantime, the rumor mill is churning on Capitol Hill.
“It seems like hourly I hear new rumblings of something that’s been put on the table,” Young said.
Young opposes the alternative to a Super Committee deal – the $1.2 trillion sequestration, which would take an equal amount out of defense and non-defense spending. “The extent of cuts falling on defense does concern me,” Young said.
If something emerges from the Super Committee, it is likely only to meet the minimum deficit-cutting goal, Stutzman predicts.
“It looks like the path we’re on is something modest overall,” Stutzman said. “I’m disappointed. There is no sense of urgency in Washington to do big things and to make major reforms needed to change the way Washington currently operates.”
Of course, in order to transform entitlement spending, Democrats will want Republicans to acquiesce on raising taxes on high-income individuals. Republicans are resisting that idea.
Stutzman favors reforming tax deductions and loopholes in exchange for lower rates across the board.
“I disagree with the premise that raising tax rates increases revenue,” Stutzman said. “A broad tax base will increase our revenue.”
Of course, launching a debate over tax reform will require that the Super Committee come up with some kind of proposal. No one in Washington can handicap that prospect.
“I am hopeful,” Young said. “I’m not optimistic. That would overstate my current feelings.”
Young said his constituents want to see the Super Committee succeed.
“They want solutions,” Young said. “They want us to search for common ground. That’s what I hope we deliver.”

Schoeff is HPI’s Washington correspondent.