WASHINGTON — U.S. tycoon Warren Buffett has challenged Republicans in Congress to make personal contributions to cut the US deficit, vowing to match their donations dollar-for-dollar.

Answering Republican calls for the mega-billionaire to donate money to the US Treasury if he wants to help with deficit reduction, Buffett told Time magazine they should all join hands in the effort.

"If we go to a contribution system, I'll match the total contribution made by all Republican members of Congress. And I'll even go three for one for McConnell," he said, according to interview excerpts released by Time.

That was a reference to Senator Mitch McConnell, who ridiculed Buffett's call last year for the country's wealthiest to be taxed more to help bring down the country's gaping fiscal deficit.

McConnell then dismissed 81 year old Buffett's complaints that the wealthy were getting off easy compared to the middle class, in terms of the rate of taxes on their income, when the government was bleeding red ink.

Buffett, whose fortune from his Berkshire Hathaway investment group is put at some $50 billion, had said that at 17 percent, he pays a lower tax rate on income than his own secretary.

"If Warren Buffett would like to give up some of his benefits, we'd be happy to talk about it, McConnell told NBC television in September.

"With regard to his tax rate, if he's feeling guilty about it, I think he should send in a check."

Buffett retorted in the Time interview that he was pleased at the Republicans' optimism that tax collection can be done on a voluntary basis.

"It restores my faith in human nature to think that there are people who have been around Washington all this time and are not yet so cynical as to think that (the deficit) can't be solved by voluntary contributions," he said.

Asked if McConnell's own wealth, put at over $10 million, would make the three-for-one challenge potentially costly, Buffett, the world's third richest man, replied: "I'm not worried."

Photo credit: Pete Souza