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. G. Kleinstein

    What is the big surprise? The president is irresponsible. the only thing he is interested in is to sack it to the rich, the 21st century Robin Hood

    December 5, 2012 05:10 am at 5:10 am |
  2. guest

    a bunch of cry babies! get your act together!

    December 5, 2012 05:16 am at 5:16 am |
  3. W.G.

    The republicans say if we raise taxes it´ll cripple the economy ??? That´s just CRAZY !
    The only thing crippleing this economy are republican congressmen !

    December 5, 2012 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  4. mike

    Close the loopholes, too. There still needs to be an increase in taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

    December 5, 2012 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  5. Quixote

    Repubs are no so amazingly off the deep end that they howl about paying the bills and lowering the deficit, but actually believe the nonsense that it can be achieved without more revenue, or more accurately, they believe the utter fairy tale that if only we close our eyes and believe, math will suddenly change its rules and less will become more, growth will cover the bills, and we can be rid of those meddlesome leeches we sometimes call senior citizens, poor children, the disabled.......

    December 5, 2012 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  6. DT

    Instead of trying to bring our government bodies together Obama apparently is doing his best to further divide this country in any way shape or form he can muster up in his backwards thinking. It comes down to him trying to play Robin Hood to make sure he can add to his ranks of, let the government take care of me masses. A once strong nation has become a land of weak, dependent, rely on the government idiots. As we go further into debt he continues to spend and will continue until this country implodes. What ever happen to cutting the deficit, responsible spending and pride of not leaving all this debt for generations to come. Once taxes hit the job creators we will see his ranks expand as more people turn to the government for cash assistance. Look at the numbers, it has doubled since he took office. Sad indeed

    December 5, 2012 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  7. Hank Weber

    It appears to me that the Republicans have deferred to their pre-election positions. They are taking the same positions that Mitt Rommney took. Americans across the country have given their voice on this by not electing Mitt Rommney and instead electing Barack Obama. It is time for the hard core conservatives to realize they are damaging the credibility of the Republican Party and back off. We need revenue, we cannot cut our way to prosperity!

    December 5, 2012 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  8. M

    What's this? Do Republicans finally understand that they lost the election nearly a month ago and that a balanced approach of revenue increases and spending cuts is a good answer to our economic woes??? What parallel universe is this?

    December 5, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  9. Please Grow Up

    The speaker will be attacked by his own party for doing what he knows must be done. If he does the right thing with a full heart, he will earn the respect of most of his party and restore it. If he tantrums, he will lose all.

    December 5, 2012 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  10. PaPilot

    Republicans are in a no-win situation here. If we go over the cliff, they will get the blame for not giving Obama everything he wants. If they capitulate to Obama's hard line then they'll get the blame for the economic disaster that will be a tax increase on job creators and producers.

    The media is also doing a very good job of burying Obama's complete and utter refusal to compromise in any meaningful way on his hard line communist approach to the economy.

    December 5, 2012 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  11. TexMan

    The GOP / GOTP has been obstructing for for years. Why is it that their tax plan remains super secret and that they can not or will not provide any details. The only plan they now have and have had for the past 4 years is to maintain the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

    Enough. Repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

    December 5, 2012 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  12. southernwonder

    the conservatives do know, one hopes, that they lost the election. the majority in our democracy dont care for their failed brand of economics. can foxnews deliver this message to them, ols?

    December 5, 2012 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  13. USMCJock

    Republicans will never learn. Apparently, they don't care what the hell the American people have said via the elections. Their pledge to themselves - and to Grover Norquist - to never raise taxes, ever (unless it's on the middle class or if a GOP president is in office (i.e. Reagan) and needs to avoid a more important to them, then our election process, the will of the American people, the economy, and most importantly, the Country. They are either so dumb that they don't get it. Or they are so willfully arrogant, they put themselves and their wants above everything else. In cases like that, they deserve to not only lose election after election, until they take us seriously or they need to be permanently relegated to the minority they were for 40 years after the last Republican Depression of 1929.

    December 5, 2012 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  14. Jack

    Americans for Prosperity, a group founded by the Koch brothers, the same people who backed Romney with $400 million basically own the republican party at this point. It's not republicans Vs Dems, it's the 2% Vs the rest of the country and they bought the republican party to hijack the country. If I was religious I would be thanking god that we have a president that represents the people and not just the rich people who could care less about anyone else.

    December 5, 2012 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  15. Jebbb

    The Republicans don't feel the American people have bled enough. They'll push us over the cliff. They don't care about preserving the tax breaks for the 98%, or jobs, or defense, or social security and Medicare. It's down to the taxes of the top 2%. The "conservatives" would rather launch another, deeper, recession than return to the tax rates the 2% paid before Bush. Two Bentleys in the garage aren't enough, they want three. And another vacation home in the south of France. And a well stocked wine cellar. And... well, you get it. And, "if the people have no bread, let them eat cake."

    December 5, 2012 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  16. Nick

    Still waiting for liberals to put forth a credible plan that addresses all aspects of the fiscal crisis and not just higher tax rates. Government debt is now 73% of GDP vs. 44% when Obama took office. he has added more debt than all prior Presidents combined, Washington through the first 5 months of W. Despite all that spending U-6 unemployment remains stuck at around 15%. And what does Obama want? More spending. The fiscal cliff is simply Part 1 of this play and this was planned by Democrats all along. What many fail to see is that this is all being done to solidify Democratic political power at the expense of all Americans – it has nothing to do with solving the nation's problems.

    December 5, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  17. Jt_flyer

    The American people voted with specific intentions. I expect my president to live up to his promises.
    Allow the GW Bush era tax cuts, for the rich, to expire as they were intended to do.

    I receive absolutely NOTHING for our government. I earn everything I have. Try taking nothing from me. I've prepared for a crisis like this. American must not be extorted by any force, foreign or domestic. No one voted for Grover yet he is able to control and manipulate the US House of Representatives for his own personal gain. An awful travesty that must stop and never be allowed to happen again. It's no longer a matter of revenue; its a matter of principal. Take us to the cliff. We'll be a better country for it.

    December 5, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  18. Scott in Texas

    When you are besieged on all side, the only thing you can know for sure, is that you are doing what is right.

    December 5, 2012 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  19. JOHN

    1. It is not RAISING taxes, it is merely taking back the TAX BREAKS the wealthy have enjoyed for so long so they can ditch the extra money and ship it to the Cayman Islands so they can avoid paying more taxes to support the country that enabled them to earn this.
    2. "willingness on the part of Democrats to accept spending cuts that are three to one or four to one." = sticking it to the middle class and ripping off Social Security & Medicare.
    As usual, the GOP is up to their old standards, do it my way or no way at all. The President has given and conceded before, the GOP seem to think they can still stick it to the country. I guess the last election kind of showed them...hehehe.

    December 5, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  20. lank81

    I find it interesting that most, if not all, Republicans believe we would cripple the economy with raising taxes on the top 2%. Almost all presidency's during the 20th century that had higher taxes on the wealthiest had the lowest Unemployment ratings. FDR – 1.9% (Taxed upper-upper class 90%), JFK was in the 3&4% (Taxed upper-upper class 75%) and so on. It wouldn't kill the economy but I'm not asking for them to raise it a ton but the loopholes that exist in our tax code should be shut. There are multiple, billion dollar corporations (e.g. GE) that pay 0$ a year in taxes. This is ridiculous and has to be stopped. Pay your just dues, help the country, and be responsible.

    December 5, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  21. Craig in Pa.

    Boehner and McConnell need to be dumped next election cycle...get rid of these idiots..they make too much money off taxpayers and do far too little.If I had their work ethic, I would have been fired years ago, and I don't make half the salary they are being paid..(.through TAXES....)...Now there's an idea of taxcuts...cut the salaries of Congress and Senate....they won't ever bring that up will they?? That's the first tax cut that should be made!

    December 5, 2012 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  22. jazz333

    The wealthier should pay their fair share period. No more tax breaks.

    December 5, 2012 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  23. Dave

    "who said the "offer of an $800 billion tax hike will destroy jobs"...Romney has 1/4 Billion many jobs did he create this year? It's an old mantra that's getting really old, but it seems to work for the really really rich.

    December 5, 2012 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  24. MrRickinNH

    More proof that the GOP just wants to take care of the top 2% and the corporations that prop them up with donations!

    December 5, 2012 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  25. petemg

    Wait a minute isn't that what Obama is demanding, more taxes so what difference does it make.

    December 5, 2012 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
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