Tom Coburn prefers tax rate increase to deduction caps

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said Wednesday that he would rather raise tax rates than eliminate loopholes and cap deductions in a "fiscal cliff" deal.

"Personally, I know we have to raise revenue; I don't really care which way we do it," the conservative senator told MSNBC. "Actually, I would rather see the rates go up than do it the other way, because it gives us greater chance to reform the tax code and broaden the base in the future.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) quickly embraced Coburn as a GOP defector. “Senator Coburn is an unquestioned conservative," he said in a statement. "If he doesn't provide cover for the Republicans to finally shift on tax rates, I don’t know who does.” 

Democrats want to raise marginal tax rates on the wealthiest Americans to raise revenue; Republicans have said they will only cap deductions and close loopholes. 

Coburn doesn't want to raise revenue at all, but if forced to choose between the two options, he said he would pick the Democratic way. 

"I think they're arguing over semantics," he said. "$800 billion is $800 billion, and it's still going to be a negative drag on the economy."

Coburn has previously argued (also on MSNBC) that “there’s no question we can have the rich pay more, but that won’t solve our problem.”

The Fix explained Monday why Coburn's opinion is important: 

Coburn is regarded as a serious legislator and committed conservative by both Democrats and Republicans. So, if Coburn is for some sort of deal, he will probably be providing conservatives in Congress some measure of cover to support it also. And unlike most senators — and House members — who are worried about how their actions will affect their reelection, Coburn has repeatedly insisted he will honor his term-limit pledge and retire from Congress in 2016.

A few House Republicans have expressed willingness to let tax cuts for the rich expire and deal with them after the cliff has been averted.

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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