GOP infighting after Congressman defects to Obama’s side on taxes

Updated
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., for siding with President Obama to vote to extend tax cuts for households making less...
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., for siding with President Obama to vote to extend tax cuts for households making less...

House Speaker John Boehner is struggling to keep his party in line on so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations after Republican Rep. Tom Cole broke ranks to urge conservative lawmakers to join him in supporting President Obama’s plan to extend the Bush-era tax rates to Americans making less than $250,000.

“I told Tom earlier at our conference meeting that I disagreed with him,” Boehner said Wednesday, adding that the Oklahoma Republican was a “wonderful friend” and “great supporter.”

“We’re willing to put revenue on the table as long as we are not raising rates,” he added.

On Tuesday, Cole called on his colleagues to take the president’s “deal right now” which would extend the Bush tax rates for 98% of Americans, leaving the battle over rates for the top 2% of wealthiest Americans for another day.

“I think we ought to take the 98% deal right now,” Cole told Politico. “It doesn’t mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don’t.”

In attempts to avoid the so-called looming “fiscal cliff”—spurred by a combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts—the president is proposing a plan to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to households making less than $250,000. The point of contention between both parties in Washington is what to tax the top earners.

“In my view, we all agree that we’re not going to raise taxes on people who make less than $250,000, so we should just take them out of this discussion right now,” Cole told reporters Wednesday. “Continue to fight against any rate increases, continue to try to work, honestly for a much bigger deal.”

Cole, a staunch conservative who once chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee, has significantly shifted his tone since three weeks ago when he penned an op-ed calling President Obama’s plan “foolhardy” and that “administration sources” indicated raising taxes for all brackets “is on the table.”

He goes on to pan the notion of raising takes on the wealthiest Americans in that “allowing taxes to rise for just the top brackets may seem like an acceptable middle ground by comparison, but this path would be enormously damaging to the economy.”

Cole says his compromise does not breech the terms of his agreement to Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, which a number of conservatives have leaped away from in recent days.

“I don’t see that as a violation of my pledge,” he told Politico.

The Oklahoma Republican is not alone in his sidestep to the Norquist pledge. Rank and file GOP lawmakers from John McCain to Saxby Chambliss turned on the tax pledge that was largely the glue that strung together Republicans in the last round of budget negotiations.

GOP infighting after Congressman defects to Obama’s side on taxes

Updated