WASHINGTON — With tax hikes on all Americans looming in two weeks, some Republican members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation said Tuesday they were ready to vote on raising rates for upper-income taxpayers to avoid higher rates for the vast majority of people.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said they could support a plan floated by House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday to extend the current tax rates for all of those making less than $1 million a year, while allowing the rates for those earning above $1 million to rise to levels of a decade ago.
If Congress takes no action on individual income tax rates, tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 — and extended in 2010 — would expire at the end of this month.
Boehner, R-Ohio, and President Barack Obama have been negotiating to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts set to kick in within weeks.
Some economists have warned that the combination could lead to another recession.
The president campaigned on a pledge to extend the tax cuts for those families making less than $250,000 a year, but he has shown a willingness to raise that threshold. Boehner's plan, which the House may vote on this week, would only raise rates for those making more than $1 million.
Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said he didn't know whether he would support Boehner's plan.
“None of us want to see taxes go up on anyone,” he said. “But it's automatic. So it's a quandary. For those who want to stand up say, ‘I'm going to oppose all tax increases' — really, how does that happen? How does that really occur at this point?
“You've got a Senate that is absolutely adamantly determined to raise taxes and you've got a president that's determined to raise taxes.
“The problem is we're in a situation where if we vote ‘no,' we actually raise taxes, and if we vote ‘yes' we actually raise taxes.”
Protect tax cuts
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, who has advocated that Republicans approve a bill ensuring tax cuts for the middle class and fight over the upper-income taxpayers next year, said Tuesday, “If our leadership puts something out there, I'll support it.
“What the speaker is trying to do is protect the tax cuts for as many people as he possibly can and at the same time extract spending cuts and entitlement reform. I'm not one of these people who think if we pass something, we're raising taxes. Taxes are going up. If we pass something, we're protecting as many people as possible.”
Cole said the outlines of a deal “are changing by the minute. Each side has moved dramatically. Differences are narrowing, not expanding.”
Coburn, R-Muskogee, who has voiced support for more revenue as part of a large deficit-reduction deal, said Tuesday he would vote for legislation that raised taxes on the upper-income earners.
“If the House sends (the Senate) a tax cut for the middle income, why would I not want to support a tax cut for the middle income? If that's what we want to do — the Bush tax cuts for everyone but the very wealthy — making that permanent? I don't have any problem with making that permanent.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said he couldn't support raising taxes on any income level.
But, he said, “I just really am reluctant to make any comments on who's giving too much or who isn't because all that does is make Boehner's job that much harder. And I don't want to do that. I'm glad it's his job and not mine.”