The political conversation over the budget tends to be simple and brief: Democrats are open to more spending cuts, but only as part of a balanced compromise; Republicans aren’t willing to consider new revenue. The end.
This applies broadly to every related conversation – it’s why budget talks begin with low expectations; it’s why ending the needlessly stupid sequestration policy is so difficult; and it’s why a “Grand Bargain” has been deemed impossible after two years of talks.
But what if there was a break in the Republicans’ no-revenue position?
Representative Tom Cole, one of the chief Republican negotiators of a congressional budget deal, said today that he supports raising revenue as part of talks with Senate Democrats.Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said that curtailing tax breaks such as the treatment of private equity managers’ carried interest should be part of the negotiations. He also wants to generate money from U.S. companies’ untaxed overseas profits coupled with a revamp of the federal tax code.“The reality is, you’re going to have to have a deal here,” Cole said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “And a deal means everybody gives something up.”
If recent history is any guide, Cole will probably walk this back and say that the only deal he’ll accept is one in which Republicans make no concessions. But if the Oklahoma Republican – a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner – actually meant what he said, it’d represent a rather dramatic break with GOP orthodoxy.
Indeed, as recently as February, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Cole, “[Y[ou’re saying all cuts. Republicans are accepting absolutely no revenues?” Cole replied, “No…. Absolutely none.”
In this new interview, however, Cole said the exact opposite. “I think both sides would like to deal with the sequester,” he told Bloomberg TV. “And we’re willing to put more revenue on the table to do that, and we would like to do it with entitlement savings.”
There are, of course, all kinds of remaining questions. Does Cole’s position have any support at all among other congressional Republicans or will he be smacked down for having this said out loud? How much new revenue might the GOP be willing to accept? And in exchange for what kind of “entitlement savings”?
Still, this is the first break in the no-new-revenue posture I’ve seen in quite a while from a congressional Republican. I’d keep expectations low, but any break from the usual conversation is a pleasant change of pace.