Washington (CNN) - In a significant development in the fiscal cliff standoff, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, a leading deficit hawk, said Wednesday he would support higher tax rates on wealthier Americans as part of a broader deal with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to avoid the crisis.
"I know we have to raise revenue," the senator from Oklahoma told MSNBC. "I don't really care which way we do it. Actually, I would rather see rates go up than do it the other way, because it gives us a greater chance to reform the tax code and broaden the base in the future."
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Coburn, who served on the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission and participated in the Gang of Six deficit talks, was one of the first Republicans a couple of years to embrace raising revenue to reduce the deficit. At that time, he wanted to do it through reforming the tax code by eliminating loopholes and deductions that he argued favored the rich and powerful. But now he appears to be the first GOP senator to say publicly he would back increasing the tax rates on the wealthy, as long as that increase is coupled with spending cuts and entitlement reforms.
Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Republicans from Maine, said later Wednesday they, too, would support the tax rate increase on the wealthy, though they would like to see a caveat to "protect small business owners" who include their business income on their personal tax returns.
"I believe that very wealthy individuals-millionaires and billionaires-should pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes to help us reduce the soaring deficit," Collins said, noting that "In April, I was the only Republican to vote to proceed to consideration of a bill, the so-called "Buffett Rule," which would have imposed a new minimum tax on the very wealthy."
Coburn thinks its better to raise rates now, which will generate the money needed to get beyond the fiscal cliff and then negotiate broad reforms to the tax code – such as eliminating deductions and loopholes – that both Republicans and Democrats argue is necessary.
He is worried that if some reforms are made now as part of the fiscal cliff talks, Congress might never return to the table to do comprehensive reform.
Not surprisingly, Democrats seized on Coburn's unexpected new position.
"Senator Coburn is an unquestioned conservative," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, in a news release. "If he doesn't provide cover for the Republicans to finally shift on tax rates, I don't know who does."
"Welcome to the Club," read a news release issued by House Democrats.
What do you think of that Grovel, i mean Grover! Roll over Grover, enjoy!
The Republicans want to give the rich a tax break and cut social security, medicare, medicade, extended unemployment and payroll taxes for the working class and people still vote for the Republicans.?
I guess even the wealthy know when rich is rich enough.
Now if the Democrats will only take this graciously and allow the rest of the sensible Republicans to do the same while still being able to save face, we might (fingers crossed) get someplace. But I suspect, they will not be able to resist the temptation to say ne-ner ne-ner and act like children. Time for all of them to act like adults. While re-electing Obama told the GOP that a majority want this rate increase, it was not everyone, so we need now to remember that and try and find something everyone can live with. Someone – and I wish I could remember who – said that a compromise is a position where nobody is happy but everyone can live with it.
These few Republicans "going rogue" on taxes are really wolves in sheep's clothing and the sheep are Grandmas on fixed incomes trying to keep the heat bills paid in winter and medicine in the cabinet. They are sure that what's wrong with America is the guarantee that nobody who has worked all their lives and raised their family will starve or die for lack of medical care in their "golden years." They remember the good ol' days of "The Waltons" when three or four generations lived happily under one big roof farming their plots and the country doctor made house calls and took a few fat hens for payment. Remember, wolves run in packs. Coburn and Chambliss are just dressing up like sheep as their party circles Grandma's little cottage and plots their attack.
Bravo. Now let's get this show on the road.