Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told me Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” that he is willing to accept tax rate increases as a component of a fiscal cliff deal, as long as Democrats put “significant entitlement reform” on the table.
“What we ought to be working on is the other 93 percent, because even if you do what [Obama] wants to do on tax rates, you only affect 7 percent of the deficit,” Coburn said. “What we have done is spend ourselves into a hole, and we’re not going to raise taxes and borrow money and get out of it.”
“And so will I accept a tax increase as a part of a deal to actually solve our problems? Yes,” he said.
But his Republican colleague in the House, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), disagreed.
He said that Republicans shouldn’t vote for a tax increase which they believe will harm the economy.
“No Republican wants to vote for a rate tax increase,” Hensarling said. “I mean, what that is going to do, according to the National Federation of Independent Business that commissioned a study by Ernst & Young, is cost 700,000 Americans to go from having paychecks to unemployment checks.”
Hensarling said that President Obama pulled a “bait and switch” on Congressional Republicans by adding a demand for tax rate increases after the election. In 2011 Obama had suggested that $1.2 trillion could be raised by closing loopholes and pursuing tax reform alone, without raising rates.
“The president, again … if he would do what he said before the election, as opposed to the bait-and-switch, what Republicans feel like is a little bit like Charlie Brown running to kick the football and Lucy pulls it away,” Hensarling said.
He added that Obama’s proposal to eliminate future Congressional votes to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling was “surprising.”
“I must admit, I didn’t know the president could surprise me once again, but to say that he no longer wants to have a debt ceiling — in other words, we no longer need even a speed bump on the — on the highway to bankruptcy — I mean, let’s look at Greece,” Hensarling said. “Greece has been very adept at increasing their debt ceiling. And now they have 25 percent unemployment, 50 percent youth unemployment.”
Democrats on the panel, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) maintained that entitlement reform should be addressed only after tax cuts are extended for middle class families.
“Right now, the only thing I hear, the only thing we see is middle-class families being asked over and over again to be the ones who have the burden in solving this problem,” Stabenow said. “And we’re saying no.”