GOP senator backs tax rate hike on wealthy
December 5th, 2012
06:09 PM ET
9 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. Lenny Pincus

    Always strange to hear a Republican talk sense.

    December 6, 2012 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  2. Don

    Finally, a sane Republican who has broken from the chains of Norquist!!!

    December 6, 2012 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  3. Eric "The Red" Jones

    Definitely need tax reform. And entitlement reform. And campaign finance reform. And term limits in Congress. And repeal of the Patriot Act. And congressional benefit reform. And in fact, with some small amount of courage (instead of fear of losing a seat) the congress could do lots of good things for its people, those that voted to put them in place as well as those they feed to keep themselves in office. Its about time this country pulls together and makes appropriate compromises for the good of all.. The rich really do know how to fend for themselves, regardless of the propaganda machine's determination to make us believe otherwise. Tax rates in the 1980's were much higher than today and the country did just fine. We didn't have as many millionares and billionares back then but who needs them anyway??

    December 6, 2012 04:12 am at 4:12 am |
  4. Andy

    At least there is one reasonable republican in congress

    December 6, 2012 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  5. davidintel

    It"s good one of them is coming around!

    December 6, 2012 05:04 am at 5:04 am |
  6. worldcares

    I commend you, Tom Coburn, for caring about the recovery of our United States of America.

    December 6, 2012 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  7. MikeTexoma

    Coburn understands some rates have to go up and he is putting himself in harm's way for his country. AMEN.

    December 6, 2012 05:14 am at 5:14 am |
  8. worldcares

    Coburn made a wise decision.

    December 6, 2012 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  9. al

    You don't understand it's the job of every American citizen to keep as much of what he earns he can and keep it out of the hands of the gov't. Particularly the hands of a liberal, leftist, socialist gov't like we're experiencing now. This serves several purposes. 1- it keeps money in the private sector to grow the ecomony and craete prospwerity and wealth. 2, it keeps it out of the hands of bureaucrats and limits the amount of money they can waste on the useless and dead technologies like solar and wind and all that carp. thank you. And please leave me and my earnings alone, and for the rest of you, go to work you jerks.

    December 6, 2012 05:46 am at 5:46 am |
  10. Mike

    Wow that must be fantastic for the Democrats–CNN, please render confetti, lightning bolts and highlights across the borders of this article's picture. It's only fair.

    December 6, 2012 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  11. Chedar

    Sen Coburn is an intellectual. I can not say anything more but praises to the guy. We need more courageous man and not an illiterate like Todd Aikin and the like.

    December 6, 2012 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  12. dontgetcocky

    Don't get cocky now. Raise taxes & cut fat! Otherwise, I'll vote republican next time.

    December 6, 2012 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  13. Marvin Wayne Palmer, Jr

    Party split. It's nothing new.

    December 6, 2012 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  14. ghost

    A Republican that is makng sense. Thank you Sen. Coburn.

    December 6, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  15. Brian

    He also stated reduction in spending so he did not join your club

    December 6, 2012 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  16. nytw

    RINO! He will be thrown out of office the next time he is up for election.

    December 6, 2012 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  17. Chad

    Good for him for standing up for something he believes in as opposed to the blue and red rank and file sheep...

    Also – a little absurd by House Dems... Welcome to the club? Really? Leave the partisan shoes at the door and welcome collaboration.

    December 6, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  18. mike

    I still wish we would just adopt simpson bowles

    December 6, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  19. Namemicmacman

    the writings on the wall g o p er's. wanna keep your job, get in line with the rest of the country or get in the unemployment line where we all were!

    December 6, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  20. Marvin Wayne Palmer, Jr

    Like I said nothing new.

    December 6, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  21. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Thank you Senator Coburn! Its time our leaders in Washington see the bigger picture and try to keep in mind what's really important to the American people. Its either you're with America or you're not. Unfortunately most of the GOP would rather see us go over the fiscal cliff just to make our President look weak. But in so doing, you heart millions of Americans in retrurn. let's face it, we need more compassionate and progressive politicians like Senator Coburn and Lugar on Capitol Hill.

    December 6, 2012 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  22. Steve

    Has anyone (say CNN) interviewed a group of "millionaires" or "billionaires" who, because of the Bush tax cuts, hired more workers? Who, because of perceived lower taxes has gone out and said "well, my taxes are low, I think I'll start a new factory and hire more people since I can afford it". Will the opposite now occur?

    My understanding is the "sequestration" is a 2% annual reduction. TWO PERCENT cut. TWO. Why is this a disaster? The defense department rents, yes rents the land for its bases in Germany, Japan, South Korea... in order to protect those countries. We have a run a trade deficit with these nations for the last 20 years. We have enabled their economies to grow while we lose lose lose jobs – high tech to G/J/K and low tech to China/India. While we import oil from the middle east. Could anything be more ridiculous?

    The wealthy in the US can afford a higher tax rate, sure. But are there credible economists who can roadmap the US to prosperity given the starting point of where we are today? We have watched China grow grow GROW in the past 30 years. How did they do it? Massive investment in education, infrastructure AND a partnership between government and private industry. Also, they are fundamentally capitalists – let the individual pay for their own retirement and health care. It is your individual body and life – you pay for your own retirement and your own health care – that's capitalism. We can transition towards this by raising the retirement age, GRADUALLY by 6 months every year for the next 20 years. Watch the health care expenditure curve bend back into a reasonable percentage with this measured and gradual approach.

    December 6, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  23. MissyW

    Republicans and the fiscal cliff remind me of what it was like potty training my 12 yr old autistic son. All the way up to his 6th year we tried everything: reasoning, praise, timing, bribes, threats, nothing worked. He flatly refused to help us help himself! Until he started kindergarten. Then, I believe, he realized the impact it would have on him. The first week of school we were in the bathroom doing our usual song and dance with him when he suddenly put his head down, shook it, looked up and said "I can't believe I'm going to do this but OK"! Then he did it! Yeah for all of us! From that day forward he never had an accident at home or at school. Can you say stubborn!

    December 6, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  24. John

    So the Liberals win and with that the again so a more socialist form of Government. What a terrible thing.

    December 6, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  25. Sashatree

    What's this? A moment of sanity? Welcome to the real world, Sen. Coburn, and bravo for standing up for what's logical and necessary!! You'll go down in history as being on the right side of this argument. Now, if only your fellow GOP ideologues would stop acting like brats willing to do anything to protect their miserly 2% friends at the expense of the rest of us, and act like adults and support President Obama's overwhelmingly popular (75%+ support for!!) tax plans......

    December 6, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
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