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GOP aide: We will stand firm against tax hikes

A Republican aide says Republicans will oppose tax increases for the wealthy even if President Obama is re-elected

A series of tax increases and spending cuts set to kick in next year could hit Americans with a costly tax hike and send the economy into a recession. Congressional Republicans on Thursday sought to send the message that they're prepared to stand firm against President Obama in the coming fight to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," saying they would strongly oppose the president's effort to raise taxes on the highest earners.

Congress and the Obama White House will have to act before next year if they want to avoid the "fiscal cliff," which includes the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and the expiration of the payroll tax holiday that Mr. Obama instituted. On top of that, $1.2 billion in cuts to both defense and non-defense programs are set to kick in on January 1 unless Washington acts as a result of the "sequestration" deal put in place when the debt limit was raised.

The administration says the president intends to play hardball with Republicans and will veto any legislation that doesn't raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. If Mr. Obama loses the election, he would have much less leverage in negotiations with Republicans. But even if he wins, Republicans will "absolutely not" give into his demands, a GOP leadership aide told CBS News.

"If Obama perceives his victory -- which would be a voting for the status quo victory -- as a mandate to raise taxes then we are going to have a big fight," the aide said. "If he wants a productive second term it is not in his interest to make things toxic."

The president has suggested that if he wins re-election, Republicans should be more open to compromise. "I believe that in a second term, where Mitch McConnell's imperative of making me a one-term President is no longer relevant, they recognize that what the American people are looking for is for us to get things done," he said in August. "So my expectation is that there will be some popping of the blister after this election."

The Republican aide, however, said that if Mr. Obama is re-elected, he shouldn't interpret it as any kind of "mandate" for higher taxes. The aide pointed out that President George W. Bush narrowly won re-election in 2004 -- and Republicans won the Senate and picked up House seats that year -- but the president still met resistance from Democrats.

Republicans are, and always have been, open to increasing government revenue through reforms such as closing tax loopholes, the aide said. But they will not support increasing tax rates. "It's something that every Republican in the House would oppose."

"We can have a construction conversation," the aide said. "Not going to be easy, but they could work something out."

Republicans, the aide said, support extending the current tax rates for one year while Congress and the administration work on tax and entitlement reform and find a way to replace the $1.2 billion in cuts on the horizon with other cuts, reforms and, potentially, revenue. House Speaker John Boehner last spoke to the president in September about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, but the two men haven't spoken about the fiscal cliff since July.

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