ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
House and Senate Republican leaders have made clear that tax increases can’t be part of the discussion over deficits and debt that President Obama is hoping to galvanize with a speech this afternoon.
But several rank-and-file Republicans in Congress are striking a different tone, casting taxes not as their preference but as something they need to invite into the discussion, if they’re going to actually get something done in talks with the White House and Democrats in Congress.
Asked whether taxes should be part of the discussion over the deficit – as the president has insisted –Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., told us on ABC’s “Top Line”: “Everything on the table.”
Reforming the tax code, Coats said, “has to be part of this package.” And the conversation needs to be broader, he said, even though he doesn’t want taxes overall to be any higher.
“Am I open to looking at the tax code? Absolutely. I'm part of a plan to do that. I'm glad the president is joining us. But I hope it's not just simply to raise taxes and raise revenue because the problem is spending not taxes.”
Coats said he would also be willing to discuss phasing out subsidies for oil production and ethanol – tax breaks he’s fought to maintain in the past.
“I said everything is on the table. And that includes ethanol, that includes oil subsidies. We have got — I'm elected here to come to Washington to make the tough decisions. And even though they go against the political grain of things, no pun intended there regarding ethanol there — I've talked to ethanol people. I've said that this is something that's got to make economic sense.”
“We may need phase down to the point where it does that. And I'm willing to put that on the table and have an honest discussion about it.”
Coats said he would vote for House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan. But he stopped short of an outright endorsement, saying he would also vote for other plans that he considers worthwhile contributions to the discussion.
He called on the president to move beyond “rhetoric and fluff” in his speech today: “If we can give us specific details and he'll get in the arena with us, where the dust and the mud is and where we have been fighting for three months, and work this thing through with us, then yeah [I can be supportive]. But we'll wait and see, because that hasn't happened until this point.”
And Coats said he senses a moment where leadership can trump politics:
“Let's step up now, make the hard decisions. Put 2012 politics aside. Put it all out there, risk it all, and go for what's important for the future of America. I think the people will stand behind that. And right now if we can't transcend the political and get to the reality of what we have to do, then we won't achieve that. But let's hope there'll be enough sensible people on both sides and see this crisis and step up and do what's necessary.”
Watch the full interview with Sen. Dan Coats HERE.