Saying they are “committed to a new era in Congress where bipartisan solutions are the norm,” newly elected U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and 31 other freshmen from both parties joined Thursday to endorse a bipartisan statement of principles on reducing the deficit.
Murphy and Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., organized the group, which includes 21 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Other Florida House freshmen in the group include Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia and Republican Reps. Ted Yoho and Trey Radel.
Palm Beach County’s other freshman, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, is not listed among the group’s members.
Democrat Murphy was narrowly elected last year in a Palm Beach-Treasure district that was carried by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. He campaigned on a pledge to work with both parties.
The newcomers fault previous Congresses for failing to come up with a long-term fiscal solution.
“In recent years, Congress has lacked the political will to come together and find solutions. The freshman members of the 113th Congress believe now is the time to work together. We call upon leadership to no longer accept piecemeal solutions and to work toward finding long-term solutions to avoid financial collapse like Greece and other European countries,” the group’s statement says.
The tax and spending issues addressed in the statement are carefully worded to appeal, at least initially, to both parties. On taxes, for instance, the freshmen call for “a fair and broad tax plan including eliminating excessive corporate subsidies, tax loopholes and other subsidies to provide lower rates, that will encourage a pro-growth economy, providing added revenue for the federal budget.”
Eliminating loopholes to lower tax rates has been endorsed by many figures in both parties as a broad concept. Left unsaid by the bipartisan group is whether such a tradeoff should be “revenue-neutral,” meaning the revenue gained by closing loopholes would be offset, dollar or dollar, by revenue lost from reduced rates. Republicans have insisted on revenue-neutral tax reform while many Democrats have advocated using tax changes to produce a net revenue gain.
On Social Security and Medicare, the freshmen say current beneficiaries must be protected while the programs undergo long-term reform that addresses rising health care costs and demographic shifts. The statement doesn’t go into specific ideas that have divided the parties, such as raising the retirement age or changing the way annual benefit increases are calculated.
“We are dedicated to working with leadership to help bring these solutions to reality,” the group’s statement concludes. “The common good of the country demands good faith negotiation, compromise, and immediate and significant action,” the group’s statement says.