Although no one would specifically address House Minority Leader John Boehner’s weekend comments suggesting he would support a compromise on renewing the Bush-era tax cuts, Republican leaders made it clear Monday that they have no interest in compromising on their push to renew tax cuts for all income brackets, including the nation’s wealthiest.
“Raising taxes in this environment is a non-starter for me,” said House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor in a statement Monday.
The official Republican line on the tax cuts appeared to be muddled a bit when Boehner told Bob Schieffer on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he would support a bill that renews tax cuts on American households making less than $250,000 even if the cuts on those making more were not renewed.
Boehner released a statement Sunday evening, saying that increasing taxes during a slow economy was “the exact wrong thing to do” and called on Democrats to “pass legislation to cut spending and freeze tax rates without any further delay.”
Still, Republican leaders took great pains Monday morning to make it clear that they were pushing forward on a complete renewal of the Bush tax breaks, and were not yet considering a compromise.
Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said that a tax hike “makes no sense…in a tough economy”, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that not a single Republican in his chamber would support a compromised bill that raises taxes.
Appearing on the Sean Hannity radio show Monday afternoon, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan told the conservative host that he did not think that Republicans should compromise on legislation to extend the tax cuts. “We do not want to negotiate down,” he said.
In a statement delivered on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, McConnell drew a clear line about the potential tax hikes, and announced that he would draft legislation that he said would ensure that “no one in this country will pay higher income taxes next year than they are right now.”
“Democrat leaders need to listen to what the American people have been shouting at us for the past 19 months: the reckless spending has got to stop. So far, they’ve made no concrete concessions. But now it’s time they join Republicans, stand up to the administration, and declare that the spending spree is over,” McConnell said in the statement. “Republicans are offering a choice: more of the same or the new direction Americans are asking for.”
Since Democrats do not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the Democratic Party leadership will have no choice but to give in and renew the tax cuts for the wealthy or allow them to expire for everyone.
NEXT PAGE: Democrats have joined Republicans in their support of renewing the tax cuts.
Even if some Republicans cross party lines, it is not clear that Democrats will all vote for a bill that lowers taxes for only some Americans. A handful of Senate Democrats are pushing for a full renewal. Without any Republican support in the Senate, any bill would need full support to make it to the president’s desk.
On the Democratic House side, four members plan to send a letter to Party leaders Tuesday urging them to support a short-term extension of the tax cuts.
Even a former high ranking White House official has argued that keeping the tax cuts for the rich “would still be worth it.” In his first New York Times column since leaving the White House, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget Peter Orszag argued that Congress should extend the cuts for two years and end them all together later.
“Why does this combination make sense?,” he wrote in The Times. “The answer is that over the medium term, the tax cuts are simply not affordable. Yet no one wants to make an already stagnating jobs market worse over the next year or two, which is exactly what would happen if the cuts expire as planned.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs quickly distanced the president from Orzsag’s proposal. “We cannot afford to extend the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year,” he said in reaction during a White House briefing.
Despite the back and forth on Capitol Hill over Boehner’s comments, Republican tax policy advocate Grover Norquist told The Daily Caller that there was nothing wrong about the GOP minority leader’s weekend remarks.
“Boehner did exactly right,” said Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Every Republican wants to extend the tax rate reductions for everyone. Democrats have the votes to stop that. We will push as hard as we can for as much as we can get. But the Democrats are trying to pretend that we’re holding tax reductions for people that make less than $250,000 hostage. That is what Boehner was rebutting.”
“McConnell is saying what Boehner is saying,” he added. “He’s just saying it with a different accent.”