By JOHN LYON
Arkansas News Bureau
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said Friday he believes the deficit-reduction supercommittee will reach a deal to cut federal spending before the Wednesday deadline.
"I think it’ll be a last-minute deal," Boozman told reporters after giving a talk to the Political Animals Club. "I think they will come up with $1.2 trillion (in cuts) or around that figure. I don’t see them coming up with a whole lot more than that."
Boozman said he does not regret supporting creation of the supercommittee.
"We were in a situation, if you remember, that we had the debt-ceiling crisis," he said. "Everyone wanted to reduce spending as a result of casting a vote to increase our debt ceiling, and now we’re at $15 trillion. It’s continuing to go up. So this was the compromise that was reached."
A plan proposed by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who serves on the 12-member supercommittee, would raise revenue by limiting itemized tax deductions. Boozman said he did not know whether he would support the plan because he had not seen all the details, but he said he supports raising revenue by eliminating tax loopholes rather than by raising tax rates across the board.
Boozman said he favored closing loopholes enjoyed by corporations such as General Electric, which paid no corporate income taxes last year.
"Theoretically, when GE starts paying, and those companies, then you can bring everybody down a little bit. That’s really what we’d like to accomplish," he said. "The vast majority of economists right now don’t feel like it’s appropriate to raise taxes on anyone in this economy."
If the supercommittee misses its deadline, a process of automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, will be triggered starting in 2013. Boozman said he believes Congress would rather have control over spending cuts than allow them to happen automatically.
Discussing the presidential race, Boozman said he is not ready to endorse anyone, though he did say some candidates might have a better chance of defeating President Obama than others.
Boozman said that if a "bland" candidate like Mitt Romney is the nominee, "then the race becomes a referendum on the presidency, and if it’s a referendum then I think we have a good chance of doing well as Republicans."
The party may have a tougher fight on its hands if it nominates someone like Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, according to Boozman.
"Then it becomes a contest between two individuals again, and that’s a much closer thing," he said.
The soft-spoken Boozman also joked that Texas Gov. Rick Perry, "if he’d come out and just not said anything, would be right at the very top, but he’s not. He chose to talk a lot."