U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., was careful during a Monday interview to not offer specific thoughts on tax and spending ratios and to avoid specific commentary on the GOP presidential candidates.
The first-term Senator was interviewed Monday (Aug. 15) on several topics during a 30-minute Q&A session on “Talk Politics,” hosted by Roby Brock. You can view his full interview at the bottom of this article.
Boozman left a relatively comfortable and safe position as Arkansas’ 3rd District Congressman to challenge U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., in her November 2010 re-election bid. Lincoln found herself caught between conservatives who did not appreciate her support of the federal health care law, and liberals who felt betrayed by her lack of support on labor and environmental law. Boozman defeated Lincoln with a 21-percentage point margin.
The first significant question Boozman received Monday focused on Warren Buffett’s statement earlier in the day that the super wealthy have been “coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” Buffett said Congress should raise taxes on the super wealthy.
When asked if he supported Buffett’s notion, Boozman said the discussion in Washington has focused on raising taxes on people — many owners of small businesses — who earn $250,000 a year. He also said the tax code should be revamped to “make it fair, make it simple” and reduce loopholes that allow giant corporations like General Electric to avoid paying taxes.
However, Boozman said taxing the super wealthy won’t close the deficit gap on a government that annually collects $2.2 trillion in revenue and annually spends about $3.7 trillion.
“I’m in favor of looking at anything. The reality is, that’s not where the money is at,” Boozman said when pressed about his support of raising taxes on the super rich.
Later in the interview, Boozman rejected any ratio of tax increases to spending cuts as a way to balance the budget and reduce the federal debt. During the Aug. 11 GOP presidential debate in Iowa, all candidates said they would oppose even a deal that called for a $1 tax increase for every $10 in spending cuts.
Echoing what most Republicans and Tea Party supporters say, Boozman said Washington has a spending problem and not a revenue problem. He said Congress needs to “reduce spending dramatically,” and that as he visits with constituents, none are telling him they are for higher taxes. He also said most economists say a tax increase “is not smart in the weak economy.”
Boozman told Brock he was not surprised by the outcome of the Iowa Straw Poll held Saturday.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., won the Straw Poll with 28% of the vote. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, captured 27% of the vote, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was a distant third with 13.6% of the vote. Because of the poor showing, Pawlenty dropped out of the race on Sunday.
“I really don’t have a candidate right now,” Boozman said. “Right now, I’m really in the situation of wait-and-see.”
Although he predicted that the late entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry into the GOP race will pull from Bachmann’s base, Boozman said there is still a lot to learn about the candidates.
Bachmann, Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are considered the strongest candidates in the GOP race.
DEBT CEILING DEBATE
Boozman responded to a question about his support of the recent deal to raise the federal debt ceiling by saying it was not a perfect deal, “but the best deal we could get under the circumstances.”
The U.S. Senate on Aug. 2 approved in a 74-26 vote a House plan to raise the federal debt ceiling. Boozman and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted for the bill that would extend the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion. The bill outlines measures to cut government spending more than the $2.4 trillion debt limit increase, mandates spending caps on future budgets, and lays the groundwork for a future vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Creation of a “super committee” of House and Senate members to propose a more specific plan to reduce deficits and debt was also part of the bill. The committee has been criticized as a way for Congress to pass the buck on what are likely to be tough and unpopular decisions on tax increases and spending cuts.
Boozman rejected the criticism, saying it is modeled after the BRAC Commission (Base Realignment and Closure) that worked to make hard decisions on closing U.S. military installations following the end of the Cold War. He said members of the committee are “really committed to solving the problem” of debt and deficits.
• Earmarks: Boozman was not willing to completely back away from his support of a moratorium on earmarks, but did say the process needs to be reformed with funding requests made “in a very, very open way.” Boozman voted to support a two-year moratorium on earmarks, a hot-button issue during the 2010 election.
He noted that not having earmarks, for example, has hurt the ability to secure money to provide a 12-foot navigable channel all along the Arkansas River.
“That’s a good thing, and we could do that (dredge the river) for a few million dollars,” Boozman said.
• Wars: Boozman said he remains hopeful U.S. troops will continue to be pulled out of Iraq, and that troop reductions in Afghanistan will begin by October 2012. In both areas, however, Boozman said he is concerned about leaving the “potential for a failed state.”
• Online sales taxes: He said Main Street businesses are at a competitive disadvantage because more and more online retailers avoid charging or collecting sales taxes. He said the growth of Internet commerce is hurting brick-and-mortar businesses.
“If you had asked me this question (Do you support an online sales tax mechanism?) 10 years ago, I would have said, ‘No, leave the Internet alone,’” Boozman said, adding that now he supports federal and state governments working legislatively on a solution.
Michael Tilley with our content partner, The City Wire, is the author of this report. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]