Conservatives blast Boehner tax increases; other Republicans withhold criticism
December 4th, 2012
06:51 PM ET
5 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. Don

    Blasts away. Who cares. The rich are going to pay more taxes either way. How un-American can you be? By not paying a fair share of taxes, you are looking for loopholes or handouts – same thing. You are a taker, not an American. It would be great if we just have a flat tax of 25% across the board – without the rich man's loopholes and write-offs.

    December 5, 2012 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  2. IanA1

    These other republicans don't get it; if they do nothing, ALL BUSH-ERA BREAKS WILL EXPIRE, which will REALLY raise taxes. They only have a little time left to make a serious offering of a smaller increase, and they are wasting their time, all due to some treasonous oath they have swore to Grover Norquist, which they have put above their oath of office.

    To heck with it – Obama should let it all expire if they don't play along, then offer the working & middle classes a break in some other format. My guess is republicans wont refuse at that point.

    December 5, 2012 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  3. just wondering

    It was their practices and policy's that CRIPPLED our ECONOMY....
    Where was there EXPERTISE THEN...
    Harm the people that are most vulnerable and protect those who are the Wealthiest....
    Are you kidding me

    December 5, 2012 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  4. Angela Birch

    I might add that the GOP expecting the President to come to them hat in hand begging to do it their way ignores the fact that they LOST the election and he won. He ran explicitly on raising taxes on the well off. He was clear. 65 million people voted that his position is preferred. To paraphrase Norquits " Who elected them God?" Obama was elected twice President. Elections have consequenses and one of them is that the winner prevails..

    December 5, 2012 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  5. Gary Reinhold

    I'm with Boehner...raise taxes. The American public has spoken...either by voting for Obama or staying home. They want to pay for Obama's relentless spending on special interest group programs that will get his friends reelected and the banking cabal well funded.

    Tax everyone and especially the we can teach them a lesson....

    Where is John Galt now...

    December 5, 2012 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  6. Nesa

    RIch people wont protest over tax increase, they have money. But, if you do it to middle class, that's a real problem.

    December 5, 2012 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  7. DCal

    Wow...I have to admit, I am surprised. I think this is the first bit of compromise I have seen in a while. It is funny how they are only focusing on the tax hikes and nothing else. What else is in this plan? Spending does need to be cut, but I would really like to see where that will happen. Regardless, I dont think they will get this figured out until minutes before the deadline.

    December 5, 2012 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  8. Vic

    Fact is, taxes are going to be raised on the wealthy, so the GOP might as well get on board with it.

    December 5, 2012 03:09 am at 3:09 am |
  9. GIUK

    The Democrats should never go along with any limit on deductions without a rise in tax rates for the wealthy.

    December 5, 2012 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
  10. Peter Q Wolfe

    Why does anybody listen to southern conservatives on tax increases? Honestly the southern U.S.A has the least to say in economic contribution towards the future health and well being of the U.S.A than any other part of this nation. I'd just disregard them and virtually all other states that have deficits and nonartificial nonslow economic growth and let them have more of a say than anybody else.

    December 5, 2012 03:27 am at 3:27 am |
  11. Kevin F

    Obama is not making a "Christmas list" for Dems. Obama is not feeling uncomfortable because his base is not as divided as the GOP base is.

    December 5, 2012 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  12. Larry

    This just proves general stupidity of so many republicans. Raising taxes on people who make millions and billions of dollars a year will not cripple the economy. The republicans commissioned a report that showed it wouldnt then tried to keep it off the record. They know it wont what it will do is upset their owners and bosses which unfortunately isnt us. The $250,000 threshold theyre talking about isnt people making only that its that the tax increase would apply to everything over $250,000 so the first $250,000 wouldnt see a tax increase for those precious voter i mean owners of the the republican party. Boehner tried before to compromise with the democrats and he got crucified then too because these complete morons seem to forget that his job is to compromise and get stuff done that benefits not just one group but as many people as possibly

    December 5, 2012 03:51 am at 3:51 am |
  13. Country Concerned

    Unions are licking their chops at the opportunity to extract more tax funded benefits. The deficit won't drop a dollar.

    December 5, 2012 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  14. bobby

    Many do not realize the short connection between large businesses and government. A senator for 12 years, starts a business to make time clocks, then buys other businesses that make business machines, and finally it becomes IBM. We need to tax the wealthy and rich corporations, to get them working again. A corporation is almost always run by someone. There are some wealthy internet people, who go on to start and run other businesses or projects. They are not our concern. It is those that get rich off government payouts, and then sit on the money. There are many like that. Lets tax them To avoid paying more taxes, they will either buy something or hire someone.

    December 5, 2012 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  15. arosel

    Boehner is doing the right thing. Kudos to him for waking up.

    Wealthier people need to pay their fair share. That's what Americans want.

    December 5, 2012 04:02 am at 4:02 am |
  16. Leadreviewer

    The Republican party needs to remember that they are in congress to represent the American people.. The American people just re-elected our President to a second term in office because we believe that his plan is what is best for the American public in general. Support our Prsident.

    December 5, 2012 04:03 am at 4:03 am |
  17. A Sneeky Drone

    They forget that they are still the minority. You cant throw weight around that you don't carry and if we fly off this cliff, most moderates will blame the republicans, effectively losing any possibility of gaining ground against democrats in 2014. I want to see the GOP party reform and thought that this election process would be the catalyst. I suppose we all must wait longer for that eventuality. It doesn't make much sense to hold on to ground that will further isolate your dwindling base. The things that would energize, expand and give more power and sway to the republican party are completely juxtaposed to what they are actively doing. Now we must speculate if 2014 will be the catalytic moment or if this charade will be driven well into the ground before it dies off

    December 5, 2012 04:06 am at 4:06 am |
  18. John

    People are always afraid that the rich will punish America if it raises their taxes, by not investing and creating jobs. HELLO? They have been punishing America for decades now, even with the lowest taxes ever, exporting the entire manufacturing base to China. The rich love money, they have no loyalty or patriotism, they want more and more and more, nothing can satisfy their greed

    December 5, 2012 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  19. Max in AZ

    When will the GOP do the the right thing for me?

    December 5, 2012 04:24 am at 4:24 am |
  20. Anonymous

    Sen. Jim DeMint dipped his head in the dog poo. he has no sense of economic reality this country face.

    He either jumped in the lake or stand up like an adult working to solve this country fiscal problem.

    Stop that silly play to the camera.

    December 5, 2012 04:26 am at 4:26 am |
  21. Cut Military Spending

    This is proof of the power neocons and secret political donors have over the Republican party. They must make a deal to stop the automatic cuts in defense spending because their party is controlled by those who want America to keep spending trillions of their social security dollars fighting other people's wars in the Middle East. Eliminate the national debt and save social securit by cutting the military budget by 50%, and bring our brave troops home to their families, and practice a MYOB foreign policy.

    December 5, 2012 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  22. GEdwards

    "I will not support any GOP plan that does not allow me to take other people's money and waste it as I see fit."

    December 5, 2012 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
  23. JomoDaMusicMan

    Obama, should let GWB Tax Cut EXPIRE, then the first week in Jan introduce a tax break for the 97% of Americans who make under $200,000 yr which could take effect immediately. This would be his own tax plan, so he & we can quit talking about GWB tax reduction for the rich. He can call his plan, Tax Reduction for the Middle Class & Working Poor

    December 5, 2012 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  24. mannyde

    A step in the right direction, but it looks like many of the key conservative Republicans are afraid to indorse it. I guess they are fearful of being called wusses by Sara Palin. Thank goodness this woman never made it to one step from the Presidency.

    December 5, 2012 04:44 am at 4:44 am |
  25. Nodack

    Republicans are willing to gut all those programs, fire police, firemen and teachers, but ending the Bush tax breaks for the rich is off limits?

    Until they agree to that they are just blowing smoke and wasting time. America voted for it. Polls confirm it. Stop wasting time GOP.

    December 5, 2012 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
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