Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Tuesday that Republicans in Congress should allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, arguing that it wouldn’t violate their pledge not to raise taxes.
Speaking at a private session, the former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman said his party should agree to tax cuts for income under $250,000 a year, avert the fiscal cliff and argue over tax cuts for the wealthy later.
“I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now,” he told Politico after the session. “It doesn’t mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don’t.”
After an hourlong meeting of House Republicans, Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said that he told Cole in front of the entire conference that his views were wrong. "I disagreed with him. ... This is not the right approach," Boehner told reporters. He said that the leadership team stuck by its position of raising tax revenue through closing loopholes but not by increasing individual tax rates.
Cole had argued that Democrats have leverage because they can say that Republicans are holding up renewing the tax cuts for the 98 percent.
“Some people think that’s our leverage in the debate. It’s the Democrats’ leverage in the debate,” he said.
Cole also said that not voting to renew a tax cut shouldn’t be seen as violating a pledge not to raise taxes because it’s technically not a vote that raises taxes. Grover Norquist, the sponsor of the pledge, seemed to say the same thing in a 2011 interview with The Washington Post editorial board, but has since said that he was misquoted.
“I don’t see that as a violation of my pledge,” Cole said.
In an interview with Politico on Wednesday morning, Norquist dismissed Cole's words as an attempt at negotiation, not intent. A handful of Republicans are "thinking about maybe voting for tax increases," he said, but "only under these circumstance that would never happen."
Raising taxes on household income over $250,000 remains a broadly popular approach to dealing with the country’s budgetary woes, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Paul Kane contributed to this report.