Cole: Extending middle-class tax cuts would be "huge win" for GOP


Now that it's just President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner driving the negotiations to find a way to the keep the country from going off the "fiscal cliff", White House advisers have questioned whether any deal signed off on by the top House Republican would get the backing of a majority of his caucus. One Boehner lieutenant says no matter what he agrees to, House Republicans will have Boehner's back.

"I think John Boehner could get a majority for any deal he tells you he can get a majority for," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a deputy whip.

"If the president is laboring under the delusion that somehow there'll be 20 or 30 or 40 Republicans break away from the Speaker and they'll negotiate--that's just not going to happen, this is not Spielberg's 'Lincoln', okay? You're not going to pick these guys off one at a time, we have one negotiator, his name is John Boehner. If he comes back and tells us, 'This is a deal, I think it's the best deal I can get, it's an acceptable deal for the American people,' the support will be there," Cole told CBS News Political Director John Dickerson.

"I actually think he's stronger now than he's been in his entire leadership, very, more than symbolic, his entire leadership team signed his proposal, the leaders of the major committees--look, John Boehner has just gotten us through a very tough election, retained Republican majority in the process, I think, you know, this is a moment where Republicans know he needs their full support, and I think he's got it."

VIDEO: Cole: "Fiscal cliff" a "shadow over everything" on Capitol Hill

Cole also told Dickerson what the president needs to do to seal the deal: outline more spending cuts than are currently on the table. "If the president gets all the revenue he's asking for, we'll still have incredible deficits as far as the eye can see. He's got to advance on spending front, the Speaker's already advanced on the revenue front," he said.

Cole himself made headlines recently when he suggested Republicans should agree to the president's proposal to permanently extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all but the highest income brackets. Cole said doing so would protect most Americans from a tax increase and take a key bargaining item off the table for other talks with Mr. Obama. Boehner said last week that House Republicans wouldn't support such a move.

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He said some are still considering his idea. "Look, you take the areas you can agree on, get them off the table. This is a big area of agreement. To me this prevents the American people from having to worry about this thing over holidays or ever, and it's actually a Republican victory. If you can lock in 80 percent of the Bush tax cuts and make them permanent for 98 percent of the American people, that's a huge win, that's something we couldn't achieve when President Bush was president. Having said that, it doesn't solve the problem, and I think members of Congress and particularly the Speaker are anxious, let's get at the problem," he said.

With the end of the year deadline barreling down, to prevent the spending cuts and tax increases that are scheduled to go into effect on January 1, Cole says he is optimistic a deal will be reached, but, like all Republicans, he's calling on the president to lead the way.

"Right now the president is asking for things that honestly? I don't think would get through a Democratic Senate. The level of revenue he's asking for? The Senate's never--that's twice what they've ever passed themselves. So you've got a lot of Democratic Senators that aren't anxious to put their fingerprints on tax increases of that size. So, the president needs to get real and sit down with a very practical politician in John Boehner and hammer out an agreement that actually moves us away from the cliff, but more importantly moves us towards solving some of our more long-term fiscal problems. So far? I don't think he's risen to the challenge," he said.

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    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.