Rep. Tom Graves paused Tuesday afternoon on his way into a meeting with Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Capitol to declare that negotiations on the year-end “fiscal cliff” are not going as he hoped.
“It appears to be turning into who’s going to raise taxes the least,” the Republican from Ranger said. “And that’s a problem.”
A day after Speaker John Boehner, Cantor and other House leaders to offered an outline of a deal that included $800 billion in revenue increases and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts – which the White House swiftly rejected – Georgia conservatives eyed the compromise offer warily and expressed concern about the talks.
Graves said, “I’ll be advocating my position,” before ducking into Cantor’s office.
The position most House Republicans share that any tax increase is anathema is running up against President Barack Obama’s vow – reiterated in an interview Tuesday with Bloomberg TV – that increased tax rates on top earners must be part of a long-term deficit agreement.
All income tax rates are set to rise to pre-2001 levels in January unless Congress acts. Republicans want the current rates to remain for everyone; Democrats want them to go up for families making $250,000 or more. The tax hikes combined with across-the-board spending cuts could throw the economy into recession and are known as the fiscal cliff.
Boehner’s proposal, submitted with House leaders including Budget Chairman and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, included $800 billion in revenue through reducing or eliminating deductions while working to reduce marginal rates. Obama has proposed $1.6 trillion in tax revenue from increasing the top rates and eliminating deductions.
Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, said he would vote against a proposal along Boehner’s outline.
“Raising revenue on job creators is going to kill jobs,” Broun said. “It’s going to hurt the economy no matter how you do it, whether it’s raising marginal rates or closing loopholes and other things that have been proposed by Boehner and others in the Republican Party. We must not raise money out of the pockets of our job creators and put it in the hands of financially irresponsible politicians here in Washington, D.C.”
Broun and Graves often break to the right of party leadership. Other Georgia Republicans were more circumspect in their comments.
Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton said, “I would rather see something that drove [deficits] down further,” but he did not rule out supporting a proposal along Boehner’s lines, saying he would have to see more detail.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Coweta County said he, too, would have to see specifics on taxes and spending before he could say whether he would vote for such a deal.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever get down to specifics because when you start talking about that kind of money, this is a reach to get that far,” Westmoreland said.
He expects any final deal to include only an outline and targets for the amount of revenue increases and spending cuts, with more detailed legislation coming out of congressional committees next year.
“We need to have more cuts than we do tax increases or deductions or whatever you want to say,” Westmoreland said when asked what criteria he is looking for.
The Boehner proposal was based on advice Erskine Bowles, President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff and co-chairman of a presidential deficit-reduction task force, gave the “supercommittee” of lawmakers who were working on a deficit deal last year. Bowles disavowed the Boehner proposal Monday, and Democrats said it would burden the middle class, as generating that much revenue only by reducing deductions would have to hit more than just top earners.
Democrats are also not keen on proposals to increase the Medicare eligibility age or reduce Social Security benefit growth by changing the way inflation is calculated.
“While their proposal may be serious, it’s also a non-starter,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said on the Senate floor.
Scott said he does not think Obama actually wants a deal because he is not spending time negotiating personally. Broun said he thinks the whole thing is part of a “socialistic” plot by Reid and Obama.
“They want to put everybody in this country on Uncle Sam’s plantation so they stay in power, make everybody totally dependent on the federal government,” Broun said. “And the one thing that they can do is put people out of work, destroy the economy, blame Republicans and if the American people buy into that, they’ll stay in power.”
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