GOP senator backs tax rate hike on wealthy
December 5th, 2012
06:09 PM ET
2 years 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. Jon

    This is not a difficult question. When you have money problems, who do ask to help? people with little or no money or people with plenty of money?

    December 5, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  2. josh rogen

    the republicans can afford to offer to exchange tax hikes for spending cuts, because the democrats are never going to agree to any cuts.

    December 5, 2012 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  3. southernwonder

    nice, very very very nice. love you senator coburn.

    December 5, 2012 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  4. Honest Song

    From experience we know 2 things: 1. The economy benefited more people under Pres. Clinton; 2. Trickle down economics only benefits the wealthy. Hopefully they will be patriotic and do what's best for the country v. waiting too late and the U.S. can't dig ourselves out of this.

    December 5, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  5. Extra Medium

    Coburn is actually a moderate in con-clothing. ;-)

    December 5, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  6. Daren Kaiser

    Here is a comment from an engineer to the Journalists and DC Politicians who are typically not very good with logic or mathematical calculations.... you need to stop the drama regarding the Fiscal Cliff and start sincere work on getting out of the Debt Canyon that we are already in! There really is no cliff to go over as we are already at the bottom of the abyss. The $3.3Trillion that DC spends every year is just digging us down deeper. The only way out is through significant job and GDP growth, both of which actually decelerate even more rapidly when you raise taxes! How about redistributing the $800Billion per year that we send overseas to buy oil back into the US by becoming a net energy exporter instead. That $800Billion could fund 8 million incremental private sector energy jobs at $100K/year per job. And, would almost fund the DC deficit spending through increased payroll taxes (not by increasing rates, but by having more workers actually working rather than drawing unemployment). Or... just forget about job growth, increase tax rates, continue your exponential Federal spending orgy and perpetuate the Greek economic death spiral. America won't be the first country thrown into economic chaos by its governors (isn't 21st Century DC eerily just like French Versailles?) and it won't be the last.

    December 5, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  7. Name

    Good start, now if Boner comes to his senses maybe the country can breathe I sigh of releif knowing the rethuglicans are taking a small step in the rightp direction instead of standing in the way of progress

    December 5, 2012 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  8. Syd

    What's that I smell? A hint of reason perhaps?

    December 5, 2012 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  9. MICHAEL WHITE

    Why should anyone pay any higher taxes considering that the government has never been able to control spending? This is not a tax revenue problem, but a spending problem. There are many examples of fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer money. And to prove my point, the national government debt is over $16 trillion dollars! That's not a joke, that's real. No to any tax rate increase to anyone, including wealthy.

    December 5, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  10. Notadolt

    Many business owners fund their lifestyles on tax deductible "expenses" not available to middle class workers. End the fraud and charade now....

    December 5, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  11. daveb

    GREAT, now we have another soft republican throwing his constituents and America under the bus! Tax is NOT revenue. It is TAKING something that belongs to someone else and giving it to others. We are headed for a bad bad ride at this pace. We need to go over this cliff and feel the pain we deserve and have earned – continuous spending, blank checks, welfare state – it HAS TO STOP – our children and their children will be doomed.

    There is NO GOOD that can possibly come of raising taxes - unless the goal is to stop investment, stop job creation, stop innovation.

    December 5, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  12. Leadreviewer

    The American public re-elected President Obama to a second term in office because we believe that he best represents the needs of the American people. Furthermore President Obama demonstrated to have the best way forwad for the Country. We the American people need Congress to answer to the American public as well.. Tom Coburn thanks for leading the way within the Rep. Party.

    December 5, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  13. Michael

    Good for Senator Coburn!! I'm a liberal Independent, and I think Sen. Coburn is on the right path. No need to sway too far left here, and no sense in going too far right.....there is a middle ground which will benefit all but the top 1-2%......if they don't like it, let's see how they like living outside the US....without all the tax shelters and write off's and so on and so forth.....I'm not the 1-2%, maybe in the 55-60% bracket, but I would gladly pay a bit more in taxes if I knew it was proportional.....I'm sorry if you are in the top 2% and find that offensive, but the rest of us just want to enjoy the American Dream, and that to me is to raise my children, save a little for college, and be able to leave them a few bucks after burial and such.

    December 5, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  14. Hu Phart Ngau

    The Republicans concerned about the American people as a whole, are coming around. The others will continue on their plutocratic journey toward irrelevance.

    December 5, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  15. tallone

    "Reforms" sometimes means reductions or eliminations.

    December 5, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  16. Gaff

    It Is about time these senators realize they need to work together to represent their country, and not a political platform.

    December 5, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  17. Wing Forward

    "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."

    Good Thinking. And American way.

    December 5, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  18. sandy loesche

    Seeing even 1 GOP leader trying to lead by joining forces with President Obama on the question of Higher Taxes for the wealthy is almost as if God has spoken and the seas have parted. And to have 3 My Lord there has to be real HOPE for these United States to actually work together and actually provide a working Budget and Tax Reform Bill. We as the People can only HOPE that more members of the GOP see that we must work together and provide the Country with a policy that works for all of us. Unfortuntely, right now higher taxes for the more wealthy is the only logical step we can take.

    December 5, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  19. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Finally, a responsible republican! Coburn is looking at the big picture and by having the courage to break from the fanatical faction of his party, has every right to tie this to tax code reform in 2013.

    December 5, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  20. texasnotea

    good for him!

    December 5, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  21. Crimsoninok

    The problem is that the Dems will not give in on the spending cuts so this is really a useless posture.. MANY republicans have said they will consider raising revenue but not until the cuts have been defined.. The DEMS want to put those decisions off until late next year.. NO!!.. NOW!! We need those cuts identified NOW!! Without it.. Lets hit the cliff and find out what's on the other side.

    December 5, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  22. Fish

    I don't think the rich should pay any more than any hourly worker. But the should pay the same percentage as an hourly worker on ALL income of every sort. No mater how it is aquired. That includes capitol gains,dividends,intrest and all forms of income. Let's be fair. A FLAT TAX.

    December 5, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  23. ernie

    These politicians need to work overtime without pay to take of the country

    December 5, 2012 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  24. DanW

    Good for Coburn. Let's just everybody drop the religion about tax rates and get the job done through compromise and arithmetic.

    December 5, 2012 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  25. wiseup

    wiseup: The wealthy has had a free ride for the past 12 years, paying lower percentage tax rates than workers making less and less than in past years. Meanwhile the CEOs who make millions off of the workers laughing all the way to Caymans or Swiss bank accounts. Then they complain because they are afaid they may get hit with a 4 % increase in their taxes, as part as a compromise with spending cuts to help reduce the deficit. Hats off to Tom Coburn willing to compromise with Democrats.

    December 5, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
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