The GOP’s Tax Hike Train Slowly Picks up Steam

On Sunday, the same day President Obama met one on one with House Speaker John Boehner to discuss the fiscal cliff, Republicans took to the morning talk shows to show some willingness to back slightly higher taxes in exchange for spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

It seemed to come more out of wary pragmatism than out of conviction, but hey, a vote’s a vote.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a fiscally conservative member of the Senate’s Gang of Six, said on ABC News This Week: “And so will I accept a tax increase as a part of a deal to actually solve our problems? Yes.”

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee used poker metaphors to lay out the situation to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday:

There is a growing group of folks that are looking at this and realizing that we don’t have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue before year end. I mean, we have one house, that’s it. The presidency and the Senate are in the Democrats’ hands.

But Republicans know that they have the debt ceiling that’s coming up right around the corner, and…as soon as we get beyond this issue, the leverage is going to shift to our side, where hopefully we’ll do the same thing we did last time, and that is if the president wants to raise the debt limit by $2 trillion, we get $2 trillion in spending reduction.

And, hopefully, this time, it is mostly oriented towards entitlements.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee speaks at the World Economic Forum in 2012. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Copyright by World Economic Forum/swiss-image.ch/Photo by Monika Flueckiger

Another independent-minded Oklahoman, Rep. Tom Cole, told Candy Crowley on CNN that Republicans might back a bill that extends the Bush tax cuts on everybody but taxpayers in the top two brackets:

None of us want to raise the rates on anybody, but the reality is the rates on everybody go up at the end of the month. Since we agree with the Democrats on 98 percent of the American people and 80 percent of the Bush tax cuts, to me, I would just get that off the table now…

“In your caucus,.. is there a lot of burgeoning support for that?,” Crowley followed up.

“Yeah, honestly I think if it got to the floor, it would carry,” Cole replied.

House Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy said the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for top earners “doesn’t solve the problem.” And another powerful House Republican, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, said:  “No Republican wants to vote for a rate tax increase.”

But he didn’t say no Republican will vote for a tax increase. And that’s the key. A growing number of Republicans appear to see a tactical advantage in caving on tax increases for the top 2%  to get a lot more in spending cuts and entitlement reform next year.

That’s an important development as the clock ticks and both sides appear far apart, at least on the surface.

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