By Kate Nocera
Congressman Scott Rigell, one of the most outspoken Republicans to rebuke Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge, has sent a letter to his colleagues laying out the conservative case for increased revenue.
Not long ago, the missive would have been heresy among the GOP faithful. But as Speaker John Boehner struggles to cut a fiscal cliff deal with President Barack Obama--and keep his at times unruly troops behind him-- the Virginia Republican's letter appears to try and provide some cover for Boehner -- and convince conservatives who have balked at the speaker's original offer to the White House.
In the letter, sent to every member of the Republican conference, Rigell said he supported Boehner's offer to the White House that included $800 billion in revenue through tax reform. Boehner's proposal did not call for raising tax rates, but generating revenue through closing loopholes in the Tax Code.
The freshman shared much of what he stated in the letter during a meeting of the Republican conference last week, when GOP leaders were in the room. In an interview about the letter, which was obtained by POLITICO, Rigell said he has not received any push back to his argument.
He argues even the most conservative budget proposed by the Republican Study Committee lacks enough spending cuts to prevent long-term deficits. Translation: Keeping the ATR pledge means red ink as far as the eye can see.
"Even if the RSC Budget (which I support and voted for) becomes law and the economy grows at a robust rate, continued deficit spending and escalating debt are inevitable," Rigell wrote. "Increasing revenues through tax reform (as well as through growth) is a mathematical -- and fiscally conservative-- imperative."
"I'm making the case, and I have made it explicitly here, that there is a contradiction and as I refer to it, a serious defect with in our own policy," he said. "That is through the Americans for Tax Reform pledge we've locked in a level of revenue and we have not voted to take spending to that level."
Rigell went out of his way to say he wouldn't support a plan that lacks significant spending cuts.
The ATR pledge requires that a change in the Tax Code to close loopholes be revenue-neutral by bringing down rates. Rigell said the math, "using a careful review of CBO data," just doesn't make sense without additional revenues.
"If you said, under a hypothetical scenario, everything the Republicans wanted passed, we'd still have a structural deficit, and there'd be deficit spending," he said. "This is mathematically indefensible as a conservative. It violates a conservative core tenet that we're not going to spend more than we are taking in."