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. DaveC

    "Not surprisingly, Democrats seized on Coburn's unexpected new position." .... and also not surprisingly, the main stream media will jump on this to extol the "correct" position of the Democrats while at the same time NOT focusing on the fact that these higher tax rates will only raise $80B/year against the $1T/yr deficit. Obama already wants another "stimulus" package to use up most of the additional revenue...we have a SPENDING problem not a revenue problem (by a wide margin). Can we please focus on the real problem??

    December 6, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  2. clarke

    It's a start, I will say that.

    December 6, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  3. Name Forbes Moore

    "Not even the might of an army can stop the strength of an idea, whose time has come." It's time that the very wealthy pay their fair share in taxes. They have been free loading off the middle class for way too long.I hope that the President stands his ground. The majority of americans voted for him, not Grover what's his face.

    December 6, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  4. Chicadow

    Know when to hold em, know when to fold em. Republicans are starting to see how damaging it would be to their party to play hardball on wealthy tax rates. And for a change, doing what they know would be most beneficial to the economy.

    December 6, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  5. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    Good bye Mr Coburn!

    December 6, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  6. barbara turpin

    Thank God! At last a Republican who cares more about his country than his political career.
    If only there were more like him.
    Thank you Senator Coburn.

    December 6, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  7. Jan

    Thank you Tom Coburn. A voice of reason and common sense in washington. A breath of fresh air..... Your book the debt bomb how to keep washington from bankrupting America is awesome...

    December 6, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  8. Mary

    Congratulations!!! FINALLY!!! Someone willing to compromise!

    December 6, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  9. Wilson Lee

    Right decision !

    December 6, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  10. David Reams

    As a Republican I can finally say I'm proud that my party is beginning to understand that to have a political future in this country they must turn away from Grover Norquist and his obstructionist stance. 98% of Americans need protection from higher taxes, the 2% can afford to go back to 1990s rates. Well done Congressman Coburn.

    December 6, 2012 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  11. Name. eric

    We need more tom coburns in washington.

    December 6, 2012 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  12. wolfyb

    This is the beginning of the end of the Tea Party and the politicians are beginning to realize it, even in the bubble they live in. It will be a slow death, because it has taken on the fervency of religion.

    December 6, 2012 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  13. jesus c falcon

    Hope Congress & Senate USA & it's people 1st & not themselves GOD BLESS AMERICA

    December 6, 2012 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  14. Chris Nicholson

    Snark from the Democrats every time this happens doesn't really help anyone else get on board.

    December 6, 2012 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  15. ObamaUnitl2016

    This is progress! Finally, the GOP is getting it.

    December 6, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  16. GreyJedi

    Hope perhaps?

    December 6, 2012 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  17. ML

    We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. I'm glad you people aren't making decisions for my company because we would be out of business....

    December 6, 2012 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  18. Genuine Expert

    If Republicans lined up for the wealth tax and the Democrats lined up for significant realistic entitlement cuts this could be over in a week. But many Americans see billionaires who Grover represents as seeking to break Medicare and all social nets for health and welfare. In addition to raising taxes on the top tier a cap on Social Security benefits along with unlimited taxes on earnings for FICA coverage are a better way to deal with population growth and health issues than simply following the prescription that has failed before, namely raising the eligibility age to 67. Enough is enough. These people own the banks, the energy companies and the mining and tech companies and the defense and retailers. What else do they have to won to feel better than us?

    December 6, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  19. nizzle

    give them more money and they will spend more money

    December 6, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  20. Mary I.Brown

    I think they need to start cutting some of the secretaries to the secretaries of all of the officies starting with the State Rep. Some of them have 5 officies and secretaries in all these officies that we pay for is all of this needed????

    December 6, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  21. mark e raymond

    you can the 2% making over 250k only for so long and so much. eventually this country is going to have to pay the piper. Government is spending at unsustainable levels for everything from Social Security and Medicare down to less visible services. "we" are the government, so when "we" raise taxes we are just taking money from one pocket and putting it in the other. it does not "create" revenue. the longer that problem persists the harder it will be to solve it. i think obama thinks it is already unsolvable, and has given up for any permanent fix, and just figures he will have his day in the sun and does not care much for what happens later.

    December 6, 2012 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  22. NameTRAVIS

    It's the only fair solution!

    December 6, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  23. Lifebiomedguru

    The conservative talk radio circuit has been saying the GOP will eventually switch and agree that the wealthy should have to pay their way , too. So what we see actually is a lot of blow hard grandstanding, a fight within the Righteous ranks for the right to claim they didnt support this so they might be able to continue to garner cash donations from the rich.

    December 6, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  24. Brad Miller

    By saying, "welcome to the club," it's obvious democrats have first and only thought about tax hikes to help lower the debt crisis. I find it honorable and wise that the republican party went to such lengths to find errant and unfair tax laws which could be eliminated to help lower our debt, and looked to raising taxes as the last resort. Fortunately, Tom Coburn and the senators from Maine have enough sense to tax those who can afford it, rather than bare the burden on the middle class. It actually makes sense that the economy that has afforded so much to the wealthy should turn to them in its time of need.

    December 6, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  25. Dragonfly

    I am still waiting, as is the country, for a plan from Obama that shows cuts happening in 2013 and on, not starting in 10 plus years, which could be negated by that Congress. If the spending and taxing is now, the cutting has to be now. There are billions, last check, 2 trillion actually in waste, fraud and abuse from the CBO. These people report directly to the President, so stop the bullying and start being a statesman. I don't defend Republicans for protecting the rich-they should have seen where this country is heading and been more savvy. They are terrible at explaining, and Colburn isn't doing them any favors with his long ramble and changed position. What they need to do is work privately and respectfully together, but the pressure on the President with a comprehensive bill that won't benefit the trial lawyers ultimately (who make more than 250,000 but know how to tie up their assets and get taxed less-I worked for some and it's sickening). 80 percent of the people in DC including this President are lawyers. That's why it's broken.

    December 6, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
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