The new conciliatory tone among House Republican leaders this week will soon have to confront an old Washington reality: the GOP’s deep opposition to higher tax rates. As they begin bipartisan talks on a broad debt deal, White House and congressional leaders face a group of skeptical rank-and-file Republicans in the House who don’t view Tuesday’s Democratic victories as a reason to retreat on taxes. “The president may think that he’s got a mandate, but so do we. The president may have won a second term, but I won a third term,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said Wednesday.
Somewhat chastened by Tuesday’s defeats in the presidential and Senate races, House Republicans said they are willing to work with President Obama on a deal that would include more tax revenue. But they continue to oppose any deal that would involve higher tax rates. At the core of the negotiations will be how to increase revenue without raising rates. Obama and Senate Democrats campaigned on reaching a debt deal that includes raising taxes on the top 2 percent of earners.
But many members of the House GOP caucus have made clear to Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) that any deal that includes higher individual tax rates would be doomed in the House, where the Republican conference returns with a slimmer but still robust majority next year. “Raising tax rates is unacceptable. And frankly, it couldn’t even pass the House,” Boehner said Wednesday in an interview on ABC’s “World News With Diane Sawyer.”
Additionally, Republicans demand that any deal — with a target of $4 trillion in savings over 10 years — include steep savings drawn from reforming all entitlements. The Democratic counteroffer is a refusal to discuss any changes to Social Security. Crafting a package that can gain congressional approval is critical to avoiding the “fiscal cliff” — $700 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in after Jan. 1. The highest hurdle to reaching such a deal may be convincing enough House Republicans, many of whom were swept into power two years ago on the tea party wave, to go along with a compromise that breaks their campaign pledges never to raise taxes.