(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.
Its about time. Lets hope the Republicans are rewarded by their base for compromising. You hear that Republican base? Stop punishing your own elected collegues for giving a little to get a little. I might actually be tempted to vote Republican again.
Obama's campaign was forward, he just didn't tell us he meant forward off his financial cliff.
This action, as well as purging conservatives out of House committee assignments will cost Boehner his job as House Speaker. He is where he is BECAUSE of conservatives not inspite of them!
I really like McConnell's reaction. It sums up the Republican viewpoint. Sidestep, spin, deny. Anything to avoid dealing with the real issue – which they caused with Boosh rich-guy socialism.
All the articles say "negotiations between Boehner and Obama." Obama is the president, he cannot create legislation. Where is Nancy Pelosi in all of this? The House has to work this out; then the Senate; then it goes to the president.
I wish they would elaborate on the deductions they're eliminating and the loopholes they want to close. I know many small business owners that write off every meal as business...every vacation as business...all the kids cars as business....there needs to be a closure of many loopholes for primarily the rich
Is there another Republican offer on the table? Because the one he gave out the other day has no tax increases in it....just unspecified loophole closures. Perhaps all those who are complaining about the taxes should read the proposal.....didn't Boehner say specifically that there would be NO tax rate hikes? Do they really think that if they get all flabbergasterly that we will believe it is a serious offer?
Conservatives still don't get it – they LOST. TAXES WILL GO UP ON THE 2% – there is no stopping the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, yet people like Tom Coburn are still saying in the face of utter futility that "they want to take away the tax cuts for the job creators" when the majority of Americans know that the bush tax cuts didn't result in any credible gain in decent paying American jobs and has no effect at all now. Its a lie and he and those like him know it – and the majority of Americans validated this truth when they voted. Instead of the GOP changing they are clinging to the past – and a dwindling demographic of their core base that is certain to make them go the way of the Whigs and become a permanent minority party for at least a generation with their defense of the uber wealthy and hostility towards women and minorities. Good God, what happened to my the moderate Buckley GOP I used to know and love – the John Birch Society nutcases and Neocons need to go!!!
What exactly are the loopholes and deductions that Republicans are proposing? Nothing is said anywhere on what they are. Unless these loopholes and deductions are the ones the rich folks like Romney takes, then this is a sham and con job by Republicans. How about being more specific about these "loopholes and deductions" Mr. Boehner and stop jerking the American people around. They won't say but I'll bet dollars to donuts they are talking about the deductions working middle class American have left, not the hide the money schemes of the rich.
Closing tax loopholes of those with assets of over 10 million is necessary to meet the needs of the nation. It is payback time for those that have made millions on the backs of minimum wage workers. Massive protests by the rich should be ignored by those who are struggling to survive.
The Republicans know because of Boehner's behavior, they will all be voted out of office in 2014 and will never win the White House again.
Can't understand why the GOP is going to self destruct over a tax increase for the rich. Face it come election time there are more people who are not rich than rich. It is only going back to where we were before the Bush tax CUTS which clearly we could not afford.
Republicans made a colossal political miscalculation during the manufactured Debt Ceiling Crisis when they crafted the absurd Fiscal Cliff plan. Specifically, they assumed they would be able to buy and rig the election to get the young upstart President out of office so they wouldn't have to face the draconian provisions of the Fiscal Cliff. They didn't worry that he would have the upper hand when this deadline approached, because they were sure that day would never come.
As they have sometimes done in the past, they refused to believe that he is smarter than they are. Continuing to deal with him under this misperception will cause them further political damage in the future.
Dust off Clinton's 1999 budget.
Let the Bush Tax cuts expire on everyone.
Congress takes a half day and goes home early.
Use the surplus to pay off some of the debt.
No surprise that compassionate conservatives are screeching over the prospect of raising the income tax rates for the countries wealthiest from 35% up to 39%.
To put our country back on track, we need both tax increases on the fat cats as well as reductions in spending. We still have to pay for the invasion/occupation of that middle eastern country that was swimming in Weapons of Mass Destruction. And Afghanistan as well.
Expect the "Party of NO" to send us over the fiscal cliff. Thanks
Somehow the Republicants missed the message. Your ideology lost. You couldn't Jim Crow the elections and now your ranks are depleted. Keep acting the fool and 2014 will sweep out the rest of you. Barack Obama is President, it's HIS lead. America wants it this way, thats why we voted. Give Obama what he wants and get the heck out of the way of progress.
the GOP seems oblivious that tax rates are going to rise automoticaly in three weeks. no agreement means higher taxes. the GOP is palying a hand they cant win, but also wont concede. the epitimy of losers.
IT must be painful for the Rich who can afford it to pay more taxes and have to give up their tax loop holes. While I enjoyed my middle class status priot to the turn in the economy,I was happy to pay more if I made more and or less and enjoyed what I was left in the hand. Why can't we all be that way and be satisifed?
So, Republicans are scared of rich people?
President Obama won the election on the very clear platform that he would raise tax rates on the top 2% in a significant way. The Voters responded. GOP members of the House now want to address the deficit and debt problem by "closing loopholes," and "eliminating deductions." The latter, eliminating deductions such as the mortgage interest deductions, would shield their rich clientel at the expense of the middle class, once again. If this indeed comes to pass then we need to sweep that bunch of rascals out in 2014 and elect a group of people who speak for the other 98%.
First off, the GOP numbers don't add up, so how will they get to 800b. Second, just reducing benefits to medicare recipients does nothing except shift the costs.
Wow! Now they're turning on their own...
Let it free fall . We can only hit bottom and start again . If it goes belly up so what
Right now, John has the toughest job in Washington.
It's about bloody time that the GOP showed a little willingness to put some form of boosting revenue on the table. Now, the Democrats have to accept the fact that spending needs to be cut. I'd close ALL loopholes, drop ALL tax exemptions and expire many deductions, especially for Capital Gains and dividends; make every penny of income taxed at the same rate ... if you can spend it, it is income and should be taxed accordingly. Expiring the Bush rates is not "raising" taxes, per se, but just putting the rates back where they were during the Clinton years. I do not see this move as imploding the economy; increasing the revenue stream does not negatively impact the economy.