Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) on Tuesday pressed his fellow Republicans to go along with President Barack Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans for the time being in order to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
In an interview with Politico, the Republican said he has encouraged his colleagues in the House to extend the Bush tax rates for incomes below $250,000 immediately, after which they could push for an extension of the cuts for incomes above that level. Without any congressional action, all of the Bush tax cuts will expire on Jan. 1.
“I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now,” Cole told Politico. “It doesn’t mean I agree with raising the top two. I don’t.”
Cole expressed his position during a meeting of the House GOP whip team on Tuesday, arguing that voting for an extension on the cuts for all but the top 2 percent would stop an increase for most Americans and put Republicans in a better position to fight higher rates for the top earners down the road.
His statement caught several Republican offices off guard on Tuesday night, with aides saying that they hadn’t heard of his comments until they were posted online.
A top Republican aide told The Huffington Post that leadership continued to hold the belief that tax rates should not be raised as part of a fiscal cliff deal and that, instead, lawmakers should look toward raising revenue by closing tax loopholes and limiting deductions.
Senate Democrats, who earlier this year passed a bill extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes under $250,000, were pleased with the comments.
“We agree with Congressman Cole,” said Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Speaker Boehner should take up the Senate-passed bill to extend the middle-class tax cuts right away.”
The position is a shift for Cole, who has served as a Deputy Whip for the party’s House conference and once chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee. The Oklahoma Republican penned an editorial earlier this month warning about the potential dangers of increasing taxes on the wealthy.
“Allowing taxes to rise for just the top brackets may seem like an acceptable middle ground by comparison, but this path would be enormously damaging to the economy,” he wrote.
Cole said Tuesday that he doesn’t see his proposal as a violation of Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, which many of his Republican colleagues have nevertheless disavowed in recent days.