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On "fiscal cliff" deal, House GOP appears poised to back Boehner

As the clock ticks for Democrats and Republicans to come to a deal for averting the so-called "fiscal cliff," evidence suggests strong support for House Speaker John Boehner from the members of his caucus, even as an increasing number of Republicans suggest a willingness to include tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans as part of the ultimate deal.

Boehner remains locked in tough negotiations with President Obama over averting the so-called "cliff," a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to go into effect next year. But unlike in recent similar debates, in which Boehner at times struggled to rein in some of the more vocally conservative members of his caucus, House GOP members have as yet signaled no outward signs of mutiny.

The president insists he will not sign off on a proposal that does not increase tax rates for households earning $250,000 or more per year, while Republicans have repeatedly reiterated their refusal to raise tax rates. Both parties have recently offered up plans reflective of these ideologies, and both were quick to reject the other side's plan.

In recent days, however, some Republicans have signaled openness to the possibility of some degree of increased tax rates - and many now believe that, if the two sides are able to strike a deal, Boehner will be able to wrangle his members.

According to the New York Times, the speaker received widespread support from his caucus during a private meeting with House Republicans yesterday, and some suggested that they'd accept a deal that would have been Republican anathema a few months ago.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who split from Boehner in March 2011 budget negotiations, has supported the speaker's proposed deal to the White House, which included $800 billion worth of revenue increases.

Meanwhile, there are indications that the president and Boehner have resumed negotiations after days of stalemate: Yesterday, Mr. Obama called Boehner for a relatively brief but seemingly cordial conversation, the details of which have not been revealed.

The Obama administration reiterated yesterday that it is willing to go over the "cliff" in the event that Republicans refuse to let the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2 percent of Americans expire.

According to a new poll by the Associated Press-GfK, Americans prefer that idea over the GOP alternate: 48 percent of respondents said tax cuts should expire on earnings over $250,000 but continue for lower incomes; 32 percent said the cuts should continue for everyone.

Despite longstanding opposition to raising any tax rates whatsoever, many on the right seem to have come to the conclusion that doing so is an inevitable part of the process - and are suggesting that the earlier the GOP goes to the table agreeing to some rate hikes, the more they can get out of the deal in the long run.

"Personally, I know we have to raise revenue. I don't really care which way we do it. Actually, I would rather see the rates go up than do it the other way, because it gives us a greater chance to reform the tax code and broaden the base in the future," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., yesterday on MSNBC.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a conservative Republican from Texas, appeared to be on the same wavelength.

"The president is going to get some form or fashion of revenue. That's baked into current law," he said, according to the Washington Post. "I didn't vote for it. I don't want it. But I recognize it, and House Republicans will work to minimize the damage to the economy."

But not all of the House GOP members are getting on board with the possibility of increased rates: In an op-ed this morning for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., stood by the traditional Republican position.

"While promising to take a "balanced approach" to address the fiscal cliff, President Obama and his Democrat colleagues have yet to offer any meaningful solutions, including spending reductions. It is clear that this administration, which has presided over budgetary deficits exceeding $1 trillion all four years in office, remains remarkably unconcerned with our nation's spending-driven crisis," Price wrote. "Instead, they have insisted on raising tax rates on small businesses, despite knowing this would only generate enough revenue to fund the government for eight days. It is not a real solution at a time when we face very serious challenges."

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