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Boehner rebuffs Republican open to Obama's tax agenda

House Speaker John Boehner this morning rebuffed the one congressional Republican who has said the GOP should agree to President Obama's plan to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for most taxpayers before addressing the rest of the nation's fiscal issues.

Yesterday, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., suggested Republicans should help pass an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for income under $250,000, as Mr. Obama has pushed them to do. That would leave the 2 percent of Americans who earn more than $250,000 still facing a tax hike when the cuts expire at the end of the year.

"I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now," Cole told Politico. "It doesn't mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don't."

Republicans should fight for extending the current tax rates on higher income levels only after extending them for the middle class, Cole suggested.

The White House has accused Republicans of holding the middle class tax cuts "hostage" by insisting on extending all of the tax cuts. Cole said it was time to strip the White House of that argument.

Boehner said Tuesday that he does not agree with Cole.

"I told Tom earlier in our conference meeting that I disagree with him," Boehner told reporters Wednesday morning. He said that half of the taxpayers who would see higher rates are small business owners.

"We're willing to put revenue on the table as long as we're not raising rates," Boehner added.

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The Bush-era tax rates are set to expire at the end of the year. Negotiations over the tax cuts are part of the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations under way between House Republicans and the White House. The "fiscal cliff" refers to a series of tax increases and spending cuts slated to go into effect on January 1, which could potentially send the U.S. into another recession. Along with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, it includes the expiration of the payroll tax holiday that Mr. Obama instituted. Around $1.2 trillion in cuts to both defense and non-defense programs are also set to kick in on January 2 unless Washington acts.

While they oppose raising income tax rates, some Republicans say they are open to increasing tax revenue by closing loopholes and tax deductions.

"We have done our part, we have put revenues on the table," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said today. Now, he continued, Democrats should do their part by agreeing to scale back Medicare and Medicaid spending. "It is important we put these drivers of the deficit on the table and include them as any agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff," he said.

The White House and a top Democrat said yesterday they wanted to consider entitlement reforms after averting the "fiscal cliff".

Cantor criticized the Obama administration for not engaging in "serious discussion" over entitlements.

"We have not seen any good faith effort on the part of this administration to talk about the problem we are trying to fix," he said. "This has to be part of the agreement, or else we just continue to dig the hole deeper."

Meanwhile, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Congress has already enacted significant cuts, so the focus should be on raising revenues.

"It's important to note that we have already agreed to over a trillion-and-a-half in cuts in both the Budget Control Act and other acts in this session of Congress, and so now we're looking to see what the revenue piece will be to that," she said. "There has to be an agreement, so let us understand that it has to happen. I believe that everybody knows what the possibilities are, so let's just do it."

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