December 3rd, 2012
09:58 PM ET
10 years ago

Coburn sees fiscal cliff looming if Democrats reject Boehner proposal

(CNN) - If President Barack Obama steps away from the Republican deficit-reduction proposal advanced Monday by House Speaker John Boehner, "we will go over the 'fiscal cliff,'" predicted Sen. Tom Coburn.

That said, the Oklahoma Republican added he doesn't want to see the negotiations continue to play out on the front pages or at campaign-style events.

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"All this jockeying in public - we need real leadership right now. There shouldn't be anything offered in public," Coburn said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront." "What it should be is the president and Speaker Boehner in a room and nobody comes out of the room until this is solved."

"I'm okay to compromise even on some of my issues if in fact we'll solve the problem," he continued. "But what we have is a game being played ... for the extreme right wing and the extreme left wing in this country rather than coming together and leading and solving the problem."

Coburn was appointed by the top Senate Republican to Obama's 2010 bi-partisan deficit reduction panel chaired by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. He was also a member of the informal group known as the "Gang of Six," which sought to write deficit reduction legislation.

Boehner's proposal was blasted by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer for failing to "meet the test of balance," in particular on the issue of tax increases. On that sticking point, Republicans - including Coburn - favor increasing federal government revenues through elimination of tax code loopholes and limiting or capping deductions. Obama maintains that an increase in the tax rates paid by wealthy individuals must be part of a deal.

Some non-partisan analysts, including the Congressional Research Service, have said the increased revenues from handling deductions and loopholes alone would fall short of the targets.

"I've been studying this for seven years. That's baloney," Coburn replied. "It's easy to get $800 billion out of the wealthy in this country by limiting deductions and taking away options that are specifically benefit only the well off in this country."

He and other Republicans have described Boehner's proposal as similar to one Bowles, a Democrat, advanced in the fall of 2011. In addition to maintaining the Bush-era tax breaks on all income levels, it would accomplish $2.2 trillion in savings, among them $600 billion in non-entitlement spending cuts and $800 billion in "health savings."

Bowles said in a Monday statement that the "approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the President does not represent the Bowles-Simpson plan, nor is it the Bowles plan."

"I'm certain that if this is not good enough for the White House, we will go over the fiscal cliff," Coburn said, "because this is a compromise on taxes, this is a compromise on mandatory spending, and it's a compromise on discretionary spending over what the select committee had debated."

Filed under: Fiscal Cliff • Tom Coburn
soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. Tom

    FYI- For all of you who keep saying the GOP lost the election, maybe a little civics lesson is in order. Obama did win the presidency, but the GOP won the House. The Senate has rolling terms so it is hard to say one party won or lost that, thought the Dems still have the majority. There were many issues, including the financial crisis, but all you want to do is say the American people all agree with Obama's plan. New flash, most of the voters do not have a clue as to what the presidents plan, or the GOP plan entail. So if you want to give your opinion, go ahead, but please quit trying to interpret the outcome of the election because you don't have a clue as to what it means.

    December 4, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  2. asm_ith

    Coburn thinks we will go over the cliff if Obama steps away from the Republican deficit-reduction proposal from Boehner. This seems to be trying to direct the blame-game towards Obama, as though the Republicans have nothing to do with the problem. They are starting again with compromise being "do it our way or else", since once you agree to do it their way, they can claim bipartisan agreement on the proposal. I don't know if raising marginal rates is the right answer but we should be passing the Buffett proposal, and raising capital gains rates. It's absurd to think that money received without working should have a favorable tax advantage. It's also absurd to constantly refer to it as double-taxation, since when I have a gain from selling stock, the money that I receive comes directly from the buyer; it doesn't come from the corporation so corporate taxes have nothing to do with it. It's also absurd to associate "job creators" with a particular income limit. I'm sure there many people (e.g., bankers, stock brokers, lawyers, etc.) who earn over $250K but do not have anything to do with creating jobs directly. If we want to have incentives for job creators, then they should be tied directly to people who can prove that they've created jobs.

    December 4, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  3. NickAnast

    Ancient Texan

    SE- First there was NO surplus. Clinton was counting the Social Security Revenues in with the general fund. The closest he ever got was a deficit of $19.4 billion. The tax cuts worked before the Democrats contaminated the Congress in 2007; Unemployment averaged 4.7% for the entire 8 years Bush was in office and Obama's rate has been above 8% because of the uncertainty of the economy under Obama and all of the unbelievable regulations he has piled on small businesses.

    Man, you really do live on Bizzarro World. REAGAN was the first president to include Social Security revenue with the general fund, and all presidents since then - including both Bushes - have done the same. REAGAN was also the president who raised the Social Security tax in order to extend its solvency. He never considered cutting benefits.

    And if you're going to play the "Clinton didn't balance the budget" game, then you have to acknowledge that the only presidents who balanced a budget since 1940 were Democrats - Harry Truman (3 times) and Lyndon Johnson (once).

    December 4, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  4. sassysticks53

    "The GOP/Tea Party is imprinting in the minds of millions of voters that it is the party of the 1% rich and privileged. This notion will not be dispelled for generations to come."

    Agreed. And that's why I don't expect to see another republican President in my lifetime. Hopefully, we can get rid of the tea party Congress in 2014. That will seal the fate of the GOP.

    December 4, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  5. Sniffit

    "and the drop began when Bush had his last two years with a house and senate majority of liberals... Look it up before you call me a liar... "

    Liar. Recessions don't happen instantaneously when one party takes over Congress. They build up over several years do to things like lax and negligent oversight, deregulation and economic policies that posit that if we just do nothing to control the imaginary wonderland known as the "free market," the economy and the players in it will all magically regulate themselves and everything will self-repair whenever there's a problem. Not a single economist on the planet will tell you or anyone else with a straight face that the recession occurred because the Dems took over Congress in January 2007. I will congratulate you, however, on your sponge-like ability to unthinkingly soak up Faux News talking points. Do you have a poster of Hannity over your bed?

    December 4, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  6. v_mag

    tc said: "I want government to stay out of my life. "
    And I couldn't agree more. Keep the heck out of my bedroom and private life. But it is not only the government that can do you damage. It's the rich folks who OWN the government. They are the ones with the power and money to make the government do what they want it to. At least with the government, I get a vote. I don't get to vote on what rich guys get power over my life. For that, we're all victims of circumstance.

    December 4, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  7. Laurie in Spokane

    Taxes have been low for the wealthy and what have they done with that? Not much that I can see. Don't see many more jobs, just see the wealthy getting wealthier and the poor/middle class getting poorer.
    What I CAN see is if the Republicans (cut-off my nose to spite my face party), fail to acknowledge taxes have got to go up ofr the wealthy, there will be no republicans around after the next election. I can also see the possibility of people going to the streets to demonstrate. I also see Democrats losing out if they don't curb spending. Very complicated yes, but everyone get off their high horses and do what's best for the country.
    I also really like the idea of a Texas woman to hold Congress' paychecks until they fix this problem, and they don't get to go on their Holiday break until it's fixed.

    December 4, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. sassysticks53

    "There is no way the Dems will ever ever agree to anything that could hurt their vote. This talk of removing loopholes is something I've been waiting for nearly 10 years, and finally when it comes to ACTUALLY having fair taxing and not letting the extreme wealthy claim a whole bunch of deductions propped up by obscure laws by legislators, it's gonna be thrown away because liberals need to stick it to the successful. But I see this is only an impediment to the upper middle class or those who rose from the 50K per year to 200K-500K per year while the super millionaires are not even gonna see a real dent. Thank you Democrats for shooting upward mobility in the face. Why don't they offer up a new ceiling and then also take out loopholes. That's fair. Otherwise, everybody should pay higher taxes if everyone wants to believe that everybody should benefit from social programs. This is whole your rich and don't need it is garbage when the real argument is how did you squander your opportunities and devised a way to blame the successful?"

    Yet isn't that what republicans are doing? Not compromising because it could hurt their vote (tea party)? The middle class has been carrying the burden for decades. The wealthy have had it very good. No one is knocking "success." What do you call "fair taxing"? How would it be fair? Just like the GOP, you offer no specifics on loop holes. Which loop holes? Specifics, please.

    December 4, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. Sniffit

    "Taxes have been low for the wealthy and what have they done with that?"

    Wanna know what they'v done with it? Look at spending trends all throughout the Great Recession and you can see what the wealthy did with it: continued spending like crazy on luxury items that really don't help the economy grow or make jobs for the middle-class.

    December 4, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  10. Sniffit

    ""I want government to stay out of my life. ""

    I hear Somalia is wonderful this time of year.

    December 4, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  11. Not here

    TRENDING: Coburn sees fiscal cliff looming if Democrats reject Boehner proposal

    REWRITE: Coburn sees fiscal cliff looming if Republicans reject Obama proposal

    Are we starting to see the problem, yet? Stupid headline award goes to...

    December 4, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  12. Larry in Houston

    I think obama should take the next 3.5 weeks off – take his family on vac, to hawaii – then come back sometime after January 1 – then find out if bonehead wants to talk at that time – – otherwise let the chips fall where they may.

    December 4, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  13. Act III: 2013 Tea Bag suicide march to the fiscal cliff

    That is RIGHT Sen. Tom Coburn.

    The democrats should obey, not negotiate, and roll over on demand. Arff Arff. Tea party and wing nuts have spoken

    The ultra rich need bigger tax breaks so trickle down will work.

    December 4, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. TheObserver

    OK my friends, so here we are. There is literally a "fiscal cliff" in sight. Everybody can see it, most of us with any intelligence also know how we got here. We all know that our country's system of wealth is incredibly inequitable, with countries like Egypt (who had a revolution, remember) and Tunisia ranking better than us in economic equity. We the people see this huge deficit, and we know that a nice chunk could be recovered by simply returning tax rates for those in the Top 1% to the same rates we had during the Clinton administration. Yet, our elected leaders can not come together to complete the most seemingly obvious and necessary of tasks. This congress is without a doubt, the most embarrassing and ineffective governing body I've seen attempt to function in my lifetime as an American voter. It's time to clean house, it's that simple. If you ran a pro baseball team and the players, regardless of skill level, just couldn't get their attitude and collective will moving in the same direction to create success, then you would trade players. Let's make this connection.

    It's time to put mandatory term limits on Congressional seats, so that these people can't make a career out of appeasing lobbyists and private enterprise to prolong their stay in Washington. Because, as we've seen, career politicians simply DON'T have the country's best interest in mind, they just don't. This is why we see all this obstructionism for even a simple piece of necessary legislation. Everyone in Washington is playing an angle. Why? Because they have all the time in the world to do it.

    Term limits, lets make it happen!

    December 4, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  15. sassysticks53

    "The proposal from the President presented by the Democrats was absurd and ridiculous. Obama said he was ready for a compromise. He does not know what the word means. He wants the Republicans to give him whatever he wants , if not He will just blame the Republicans for all the damage he has done in the last 4 years. The Republicans have presented a realistic proposal but of coarse Obama won't accept, it limits his spending and over taxing the rich. The Democrats have no shame. Please Republicans don't cave!"

    They will cave. They lost the election big time. Compromise doesn't mean that the President is supposed to let the GOP steamroll over him. He campaigned and won the election on his promise to raise taxes on the wealthy. He didn't campaign on a promise to give the republicans their own way; President Obama did not campaign on protecting the rich – the GOP did that and they lost. What part of this don't you and the GOP understand? President Obama won the election quite impressively – not Romney and the GOP. So get ready to pay your fair share for a change.

    December 4, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  16. Tom

    Sniffit- I have one question for you. Are you willing to admit that it goes both way? I mean you are more than willing to state things don't happen immediately in an economy when you want to blame Bush, but are you willing to admit that many of the "successes" touted by the democrats also came from the fruits of programs started under the Bush administration. Take TARP for example. Obama has been more than happy to take credit for things that have grown out of that program. One other thing Obama might learn from TARP also, is while it was not popular with his own party, Bush signed off on it because he felt it was the right thing to do, not the politically wise thing to do. If we had more employees(elected officials) willing to do what that thought was right, not necessarily politically wise, we might not be in the dire straits were are in now.

    December 4, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Yet isn't that what republicans are doing? Not compromising because it could hurt their vote (tea party)? The middle class has been carrying the burden for decades."

    Yeah. And as long as CNN continues to cater to these "pseudo political" bigots, our middle class will continue to carry the burden because if catering to the ugly underbelly of American politics has proven anything, it's proven just how damaging to America TeaPers actually are.

    December 4, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  18. Phil

    The majority of the people say to increase the tax on the rich. How is it that the republican senate can ignore what the "people" are telling them they want? They are supposed to serve the people that they represent not their own interests.

    December 4, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. Nick

    Still waiting for liberals, Obama supporters, and the much-biased media to explain how $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years somehow offsets Obama's $1.2 trillion ANNUAL deficit. I'm not the best at math but even I can see that doesn't work. And Obama's "real" spending cuts only amount to $400 billion. There is only one reason: this is entirely a political move by Obama to win the mid-terms, no matter the cost to the rest of us. If you think job growth is bad now, just wait and see what happens if Obama gets his way. And giving him contorl over the debt ceiling? That's like handing a case of beer and the car keys to an adolescent.

    December 4, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  20. Tom


    President Obama won the election quite impressively – not Romney and the GOP

    234 to 201

    Want to tell me what those numbers represent? Oh yea, you only know the presidential results. We have a divided government, which means both sides get input. Just because Obama won, if you didn't notice there are a hell of a lot of people who didn't vote for him, including over 4 milllion who voted for him in the last election. You might want to go back to school and learn how the government was set up. It was not designed for the president to do whatever he wants. That would be a dictator, feel free to look up the definition if you don't know what that is.

    December 4, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  21. Tom


    The majority of the people say to increase the tax on the rich. How is it that the republican senate can ignore what the "people" are telling them they want? They are supposed to serve the people that they represent not their own interests.

    Phil, thank you for posting this and proving my point. It is the House who is not passing the bill, not the Senate. Maybe if CNN had a quiz posters needed to pass before they share their comments, it would cut down on the self rightousness on both sides. This proves to me once again, many people who vote have no concept of what they are voting for. It would be interesting to know what the results of elections would be if there was a requirement that you could only vote if you knew what you were voting for.

    December 4, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  22. Phyllis G Williams

    Fiscal Cliff
    "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself
    strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him" (2nd Chronicles 16: 9)

    "As I Live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God
    "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14: 11-12)
    "Who will render to every man according to his deeds (Romans 2: 6)

    "Unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,
    indignation,..wrath, tribulation..anguish,upon every soul of man that doeth evil...but
    glory, honour,..peace, to every man that worketh good" (Romans 4: 6-10)
    "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. There is no power but of God (Romans 13)

    December 4, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  23. Jon McAuliffe

    Who do the Republicans think they're fooling with this phoniness? They protect the wealth at all costs. The hell with the American middle class. They didn't get it in the campaign and they still don't get it. But if we go over the cliff, "maybe" they'll get it then because the hue and cry will increase way beyond simply disapproval.

    December 4, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  24. v_mag

    Government is the only agent we have to protect us from the rich. It is imperfect, since the rich can afford to buy political influence, at least, and absolute loyalty, at worst. In previous ages, the rich included the Church and any local strong man who managed to wrest power from the previous strong man. Today, many people don't recognize the rich as enemies, because they work behind the scenes and are not as "in your face" as they were in previous eras. But they are the enemies of humanity in many cases. Not the "sorta rich", but the 1% rich. And not every one of them. But as a class, they exist to get more and exercise power over the lives of ordinary people.

    As imperfect as our government is, it is still the only thing we have, short of revolution, that can insulate us from terrorism by the rich. If you don't believe that, history is full of horror stories in which the rich stick it to those with little power and money.

    December 4, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  25. FactCheck

    This talk of removing loopholes is something I've been waiting for nearly 10 years, and finally when it comes to ACTUALLY having fair taxing and not letting the extreme wealthy claim a whole bunch of deductions propped up by obscure laws by legislators, it's gonna be thrown away because liberals need to stick it to the successful.

    Wow, you are just a salad spinner of misinformation. The tax loopholes that the GOP want to close will be the mortgage interest deduction, property tax deduction, charitable deduction, and retirement deductions. Guess who this hurts?

    Meanwhile, the deductions that they want off the table include tax breaks for corporate jet owners, tax breaks for second homes, and massive deductions for oil companies. Guess who this helps?

    Read up before you sprout off.

    December 4, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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