Conservatives blast Boehner tax increases; other Republicans withhold criticism
December 4th, 2012
06:51 PM ET
2 years ago

Conservatives blast Boehner tax increases; other Republicans withhold criticism

(CNN) - Leading conservatives blasted a controversial new House Republican proposal that breaks with years of GOP orthodoxy by calling for more taxes to be paid by wealthier Americans as part of a broader deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

But in a sign of how politically treacherous and awkward the offer has become, top Senate Republicans - many of them conservatives - withheld harsh criticism of the plan even as they refused to embrace it.

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In fact, despite their general misgivings about approving tax increases, they gently nudged negotiations forward, in apparent recognition that any final agreement would include higher taxes – at least in some form - as President Barack Obama demands.

The proposal, part of a $2.2 trillion deficit reduction package, would raise new revenue by eliminating unspecified deductions and other loopholes from the tax code. While it does not call for an increase in tax rates - as Democrats want – it still drew fire from conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, who said the "offer of an $800 billion tax hike will destroy jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said it would be "a huge mistake to raise taxes. It will cripple the economy."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell sidestepped the question when at a press conference he was asked directly if he backed the plan, which was presented Monday by House Speaker John Boehner and other House leaders.

"I commend the House Republican leadership for trying to move the process along and getting to a point where, hopefully, we can have a real discussion," he said.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Senate Republican, echoed the sentiment.

"I'm not prepared to come out and embrace it or support it other than to say it's a good faith effort. It's serious and it ought to be taken seriously by the White House."

Another Senate GOP leader, Roy Blunt of Missouri, said it would be counter productive for Republican senators to become "outside commentators" while negotiations are taking place between Obama and Boehner.

"I don't have position on the Boehner proposal," Blunt said.

Charles Grassley of Iowa, a senior Republicans on the Finance Committee, was one of a only a few GOP senators who said he would support Boehner's plan to raise revenue but only if there is a "willingness on the part of Democrats to accept spending cuts that are three to one or four to one."

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative grassroots group, released a statement late Monday that said, "Sadly this plan leaves conservatives wanting."

Heritage Action for America, an advocacy group affiliated with the conservative think tank, sent an e-mail to supporters urging them to contact their members of Congress and oppose the compromise.

"Not only are Republican leaders asking their members to go back on their promise not to raise taxes on the American people, but they appear unwilling to fight for the bold entitlement reforms that won them the House in 2010," the e-mail stated.

But two senior House GOP aides cited criticism from the right as evidence that House Republican leaders are being more responsible in the negotiations than the president. They argued they are giving ground taxes - on an issue that they knew full well would inflame their base.

"It points to the fact that this is serious credible proposal," one of these aides told CNN, referring to the critical statements from some outside groups and conservative lawmakers. "The reason the president isn't meeting the same kind of criticism is because he's proposing a Christmas list for the left, and we can't do this if he's not willing to break with his comfort zone."

This aide added, "if we don't see some movement from the White House then it proves that the president agrees with liberals that going off the cliff isn't' all that bad."

It was notable that in addition to Boehner, the entire House GOP leadership team signed onto the Republican counter offer on Monday, including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

Ryan gained national prominence as GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate, and has earned a reputation as a leading conservative voice on tax and budget issues. The show of unity was designed to help stem defections among the rank and file and head off potential questions about differences in strategy among top leaders.

South Carolina Republican Rep Trey Gowdy said he was still reviewing the proposal and needs more details, but said that "Paul Ryan's opinion carries great weight with many of us."

Freshman Georgia Republican Rep Austin Scott said he wants to see a deal that reduces the debt more, but said he still needs to see the final cost of the House Republican plan.

But Scott praised House GOP leaders for putting more ideas on the table, and told reporters he doesn't believe Obama is sincere about finding compromise with Republicans.

"We'd like to see him coming with his proposals instead of sending subordinates like (Treasury) Secretary (Timothy) Geithner, who quite honestly has low credibility with most of us including myself," Scott said.

House GOP aides recognize that they are likely to lose votes from conservatives if they are able to get to a final deal with the White House, but they are working closely now to keep their message consistent.

Now that they have responded to the White House demand to see a Republican plan they will continue to press for the administration to engage and show what kind of cuts to entitlement programs Obama could accept.

Blunt, who served as top vote counter in the House under Boehner, told CNN that he believes that the speaker needs to get "a majority of the majority" of Republicans to vote for a final deal so that Boehner has a strong hand to deal with other big issues in the future.


Filed under: Republicans
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. Steve

    How many of these politicians have an education in macro economics?

    December 4, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  2. mantirig41

    At least they are talking

    December 4, 2012 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  3. California Gary

    Boehner knows what needs to be done, but his own caucus is leading him around by the nose and won't let him do it. He needs to man up and show some leadership.......if he doesn't, we will all suffer the consequences. Make the deal John, and let's move on.

    December 4, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  4. ghostriter

    Nice...what's funny is that the same complaining republicans above were all for this before Nov 6th. The fact that democrats are for Obama's plan has little to do with the "wish list" and more to do with the fact that he's been on the same thing for about 4 years now.

    Conservatives should really figure out what it is they want. Instead of simply being against everything the president is for and proposing non-effective ideas that wind up doing less.

    December 4, 2012 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  5. Ron

    The Republicans are in a state of disarray. The leaders can't even get their own right-wing plan approved by the extremists in the party. It's going to be obvious to most people who's at fault if an agreement is not reached.

    December 4, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  6. Larry L

    None of us reading these articles have any real specifics – we'll see what transpires. Still, to see Speaker Boehner at least throw out the hint of actual compromise is encouraging. It's amusing how some of the Republican weasels are avoiding the concept – even calling it the "Boehner Proposal" to distance themselves from the initiative. These same political slime-balls will wait until the last moment to vote (to avoid voting for it) for any compromise – hoping to be one of the jerks who avoided making tough choices and using that against their opposition in future elections. Maybe Speaker Boehner is the leader of the new Republican Party – the one without the hateful radicals that caused them to lose the 2012 election.

    December 4, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  7. clarke

    "It will destroy jobs" well by giving all the tax breaks didn't create jobs, so how are you going to destroy something we don't have. Remember Congress promised Jobs durning the 2010 elections, well you all got your jobs, but where are ours, the ones your promised. Stop using the JOB card!

    December 4, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  8. Carol Johnson

    Apparently their are no republicans that are doing the talking realize the everybody's taxes will go up on January 1, 2013. You would think that being in congress they would understand that for they were the ones who voted to repeal the Bush and republicans tax cuts they made in 2001 and 2003 and at the same time voted to repeal the cuts on December 31, 2010 which Obama agreed with them to extend for 2 years and even gave more tax cuts in payroll taxes, but they voted to let them expire on January 1, 2013.
    Now I can understand some are so dense they would not understand, but when we have so many who I think are sober and still do not understand all taxes increase on January 1, 2013 then we have an illiterate bunch of republicans who will learn the hard way!!!

    December 4, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  9. Andy

    Hello, is anybody home in that small tent of the GOP? We just had an election in which Americans soundly rejected the Republicans' central philosophy of protecting the rich. Now polls show that they would be the party most Americans will blame if we go over the cliff. Can they come out of the bubble already? Ultra conservatives and Tea Partiers continue to show they've become a fringe interest group so if I were a centrist or moderate Republican, I would speak up a little more loudly in my party because at this rate, the tent will get even smaller.

    December 4, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  10. Jameserizer

    One thing I am not hearing in this debate is how we are going to pay down our national debt. All the talk is about deficit reduction and that's fine...step one in paying down the national debt is to achieve an annual budget surplus, so that surplus can start reducing our debt. Clinton was doing that 12 years ago. Bush comes in, sees a budget surplus, and instead of continuing to pay down the debt, he cuts taxes for everyone and BTW starts a couple of un-funded wars.

    Now the republicans balk at letting the Bush tax cuts expire as part of a balanced budget program....how do they imagine we can start paying down the national debt? I want to know this.

    December 4, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  11. Indeigrl

    Conservatives will play right into Obama's hand if they go after Republicans for raising tax rates. Obama is maniacally pursuing political power, acting as president of his half of the country, running roughshod over the other half He promised a" balanced approach" then refuses to cut spending. Deja vu. He was a "Centrist Uniter" then we got Obamacared and Class Warfared. Today Obama says getting rid of tax loopholes can be discussed after raisoing tax rates. Looks like he's going for both. Plus the massive tax hikes to pay for Obamacare starting Jan 1. And Obamabots try to say you're crazy for saying Obama is a socialist. In ten years, $60k will work half the year for the government. Consider cashing in your 401k for gold bars you can hide in your mattress.

    December 4, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  12. Randy, San Francisco

    Speaker Boehner is caught between a hard rock and a hard place. Blame Washington gridlock on extremists who rather see the country go over the cliff than to compromise their ideological beliefs.

    December 4, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  13. barbra k

    Mr.Boehner says he is willing to compromise. Look at any picture taken during negotiations with Mr.Obama and Boehner has a blank look on his face, or he is staring into space. It certainly is not a look of compromise.

    December 5, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  14. Quasi

    Just print the damn money and pay off all the debt NOW!

    December 5, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  15. Anonymous

    So it doesn't raise taxes just close loopholes? What's the problem here? It doesn't do enough in my opinion

    December 5, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  16. oregon alley cat

    I am hopeful that both sides are willing to compromise a little and an agreement can be reached in time. There has been too much partisan bickering considering how costly it would be to go over the fiscal cliff...

    December 5, 2012 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  17. J

    It's not RAISING taxes if it's letting tax cuts EXPIRE, it's just getting them back to where they were before Bush gave his business buddies a bigger break.

    December 5, 2012 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  18. toddcourt1

    If Republican's want 2.2 Trillion in spending cuts and no tax hike for the wealthy, and the President and the Democrats want 1.6 Trillion in a 3% tax increase from the rich, the middle of that 3.8 Trillion spread is 300 Billion in spending cuts and 1.5% tax hike for the wealthy. That's the compromise.

    December 5, 2012 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  19. DP

    I am just amazed that the Republican Party is effectively holding the whole country hostage for 2% of the wealthiest Americans in our country.

    December 5, 2012 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  20. Squigman

    Sometimes it's best to have empathy for a person, rather than pure disdain. But this is not the time. The republican party, pandered to the people with extreme views and ideals to garner votes, and gain access to power. Now live with your choices.

    December 5, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  21. TomTheTaxPayer

    I have lost all faith in Baby Boomers of both parties. They want to have their cake, eat it, and make someone else pay for a new piece. There will be NOTHING left for XYZ but massive debt. Why isn't 2.4 TRILLION in taxes enough? Why is it never enough? Stop spending so darn much you idiots!

    December 5, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  22. john117

    God this is painful to watch. You can see steam coming out of the GOP's ears as they try and think of ways to somehow push all the blame onto Obama for raising taxes.

    December 5, 2012 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  23. Belseth

    Since when does a small percentage of the country, radical conservatives, get to decide for the rest of us??? The Republicans have been kissing their backsides long enough. It's time the other 75% of the country got some love!!!!

    December 5, 2012 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  24. KeninTexas

    Of course no one wants taxes to be raised, but we all need to realize the US has spent itself into a corner and it is time to fix the problem. Everyone is going to have to step up and foot the bill. The tax increase on the very wealthy isn't going to hurt them. And it won't prevent them from investing if they think there is a good investment to be made. It will reduce the amount they may have for investment, but it won't stop it. And everyone thinks the middle class is immune from tax increases. Think again! Everyone is going to get hit. Obamacare tax increases begin the first of the year which will effect everyone. More is coming too. Again, this is the result of out of control spending by both Democrats and Republicans over the years. But it went crazy under Obama. We have a real problem and the sooner we start to address it, the sooner we begin the long hard haul to fixing it.

    December 5, 2012 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  25. DixonIV

    I don't get the idea that the President is only giving a Christmas gift to Democrates. I have never seen a time where 98% of the citizens of our Great Country were for Democrates, or Republicans. I would say if anything, the Republicans are holding out for a huge Christmas prestent for the 1% at the xpense of the majority. How do they justify that statement? It seems the Republicans have the corner on running a class warfare type campaign.

    December 5, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
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