GOP senator backs tax rate hike on wealthy
December 5th, 2012
06:09 PM ET
1 year ago

GOP senator backs tax rate hike on wealthy

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.


Filed under: Fiscal Cliff • Tom Coburn
soundoff (331 Responses)
  1. Tom

    Raising rates does not lead to more revenue. This is a really bad joke

    December 6, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  2. AZ Woman

    'bout time.This is NOT an increase. It is an expiration.

    December 6, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  3. Ed

    Sanity breaking out finally in the GOP? Or isn't he in the club anymore after saying something like this?

    December 6, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  4. lcleejr

    good to see a republican senator that does not have to kiss the butt of the wealthy or big business to get elected. a rare republican.

    December 6, 2012 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  5. wiseup

    McConnell has made it a goal this year to make sure president Obama is only a 2 term preident.

    December 6, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  6. Anonymous

    vote repubs out asap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 6, 2012 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  7. andy658

    Charge the entire House of Representatives with treason and threaten to lock them up!

    December 6, 2012 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  8. nomad2003

    what a joke, think this will effect the "wealthy",,, nope.. they do not have wages or income that is taxed at that rate.... the wealthy has incomes from capital gains and devidends.... and with this they will sell it off and invest in tax free securities. No business growth, no job growth. And this will be doubled because of the capitial gains taxes in Obamacare. And where do you think the taxes for Obamacare will be going... to pay for food stamps for the next 9 million who will be losing there jobs....

    December 6, 2012 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  9. What in Sam Hill

    These GOP senators, they don't have to worry about Grover Sandwich or the Tea Party or losing the next election as a repercussion of abandoning their ridiculous pledge, because they get super-retirement for life anyway, so $100,000 a year for the rest of their lives, who gives a hoot about being reelected? That's our corrupt congress for y'all.

    December 6, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  10. rosethornne

    Good for him.
    One tiny flash of cognitive activity in the republican party.
    Kinda sad.

    December 6, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  11. What the Sam Hill

    These GOP senators, they don't have to worry about Grover Sandwich or losing the next election as a repercussion of abandoning their ridiculous pledge, because they get super-retirement for life anyway, so $100,000 a year for the rest of their lives, who gives a hoot about being reelected? That's our corrupt congress for y'all.

    December 6, 2012 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  12. wiseup

    norquist can afford to threaten GOP who signed pledge. He wasn't elected so he doesn't so he doesn't have to worry about losing his job.refusing to sign pledge to norquist is same as breaking pledge.

    December 6, 2012 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  13. kacedice

    YAY. Finally some hope of progress. Now that such a fiscal conservative has broken ranks with Boehner, perhaps others will follow. The republicans know–although won't admit in public–that the polls tell us that the majority of Americans want the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes–the "loophole" changes that the republicans are pushing for instead–won't do enough, and they know it. Also, in general, politicians on both sides seem to focus most on what they think will allow them to save their own jobs–that is their number one concern–As soon as they are in office–they are running for their next terms–hoping to be forever on the gravy train. They forget that they are there to do what most Americans wish–not just what they –wrongheadedly in this instance–think will help them keep their jobs!

    December 6, 2012 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  14. Consequence

    When we talk about wealthy CEO's, may we also talk about the wealthy Institutions who pay them to protect their investments? The teachers unions, the pension funds, mutual funds...not to mention all those john doe 401K and IRA investors whose stock portfolios have grown many times more than those who do not have the funds to invest.

    December 6, 2012 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  15. Bruce

    I am glad someone has the guts to do what is right, thanks Senator Coburn.

    December 6, 2012 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  16. CaliforniaAc

    The GOP is committed to their oath to Grover Norquist putting it above their oath to the USA as elected officials. What a sad day for Americans to see Lincoln's party highjacked by GREED. The GOP dropped the penny (Lincoln) for Benjamin Franklin ($100 bill) thus making their allegiance to a COUNTRY UNDER GREED and NOT A COUNTRY UNDER GOD!

    December 6, 2012 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  17. roadkilled

    Pretty straight forward stuff. Now, on to the details!

    December 6, 2012 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  18. Faque

    For anyone to consider anybody at 250k rich is ridiculous. So many dual income families meet this bar especially if they are even close to retirement.

    Even dual income people close to retirement with any amount of savings with interest are over 250k. that isn't much really.

    December 6, 2012 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  19. craig

    The GOP implosion is beginning. The few "moderates" are attempting to return to a party that at least spoke of compromise and finding common ground, and although they don't yet have a focused leader, some people are beginning to emerge. In the meantime, the hardliners are just growing deeper and deeper roots, unwilling to even consider discussions that might lead to answers. At some point, especially in the House, the GOP "group" is going to become "unleadable" simply because enough of them will have figured it out. For the rest, they will wallow in "the math that they tell themselves" and wonder why they can't prevail with their extreme positions.

    December 6, 2012 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  20. tc4012

    barry won't negotiate so it's a moot point isn't it...

    December 6, 2012 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  21. Bob

    It doesn't have to be coupled with anything. We taxed the rich before and we can do it again. We can also raise the minimum wage to get people out of poverty. That would reduce government spending without making any changes to current programs for the needy, because there would be a lot fewer of them who needed help. Raising the minimum wage and taxing the rich as we did in former times would solve most of our current economic problems. After all , it is not the rich who are in trouble, but the poor. Granted, the rate at which the rich are growing richer would decline, corporate executives would receive smaller bonuses, and they would have to learn to tough it out in smaller yachts and mansions, but I think if average working Americans had incomes of over a million they'd be happy to pay a few bucks more in taxes. I know I would.

    December 6, 2012 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  22. john hollowell

    Sometime these so called leaders need to shut up and do their darn job or get. Out of way.

    December 6, 2012 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  23. A lesson still to learn

    "Welcome to the Club," read a news release issued by House Democrats. It's not surprising that the Dems gloat, but it's a big mistake. A gracious acceptance would better suit their agenda.

    December 6, 2012 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  24. Kate65

    At last, someone who isn't kowtowing to the wealthy. As Warren Buffet has said, why should he pay less taxes than his secretary. Why should my 96 year old uncle/88 year old aunt pay more taxes than the wealthy.

    December 6, 2012 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  25. James

    Please note that he said millionairess and billionaires. There is a huge difference between earning $2M per year as a family or $250k. I always felt that this artificial line at $250k is seriously into the upper middle class and is not wealthy, especially in high cost of living areas. Problem for congress is that statistically speaking it's easier to gather support for a 2% number because while not large it is a whole, tangible number. Taxing only at $1M and up would only affect about 0.8% of the taxpayers and that fractional number is not as sexy and/or easy to sell. But if you make it this way it would put a lot of non corporate businesses and upper middle class families out of the crossfire.

    I don't think there would be as much friction selling tax increases on millionaires and up.

    December 6, 2012 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
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