Since voters rejected Mitt Romney’s $5 trillion tax plan and President Obama won re-election earlier this month, Republicans have expressed interest in raising revenue to avert the coming fiscal cliff. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) immediately signaled that they are open to raising revenue and prominent Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Bob Corker (R-TN) publicly broke with a conservative no-tax pledge, arguing that they would be willing to close loopholes and deductions so long as Democrats embrace spending cuts in Medicare and Social Security and support “structural reforms” in entitlement programs.
And while the GOP’s rhetorical shift represents a break from their dogged opposition to revenue increases during previous budget negotiations, their public “concessions” closely mirror the kind of policies voters overwhelmingly rejected: tax reform that does not increase marginal tax rates on the richest Americans, but includes eliminating tax loopholes and steep entitlement cuts that closely mirror the policies included in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget.
As Steve Benen put it, “on the one hand, Republicans would get the tax rates they want. On the other hand, Republicans would also get the entitlement changes they want.” Yet the party and the media are suddenly presenting the position as “big concession” and are urging Democrats to back entitlement reform:
— SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): “I’m willing to generate revenue. It’s fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table…. I will not raise tax rates to do it. I will cap deductions….But to do this, I just don’t want to promise the spending cuts. I want entitlement reforms.” [This Week, 11/25/2012]
— CNBC’s JOHN HARWOOD: “But you saw yesterday on some of the Sunday shows people like Lindsey Graham making the argument that, ‘yes I’m willing to put tax revenue on the table, not rates but revenue.’ But that’s a big concession by Republicans because they have not been willing to do that before except revenue as it comes from growth.” [Squawk Box, 11/26/2012]
— SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN): “This is a very easy thing to do technically. What it takes is political courage … I think I’ve shown a willingness to compromise and solve this problem.” [CBS This Morning, 11/26/2012]
— MSNBC’s MIKA BRZEZINSKI: “But there are new signs that lawmakers may be willing to compromise. A growing number of Republicans are slowly backing away from Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge saying they are open to letting revenues rise if Democrats do their part in the budget talks.” [Morning Joe, 11/26/2012]
— CNN’s SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: “Politicians on both sides of the aisle are now signaling that they’re willing to compromise. That includes Republicans who’ve been softening their stance on raising taxes.” [Starting Point, 11/26/2012]
In reality, the post-election deal resembles the package Boehner agreed to in 2011, though it was quashed by more conservative House Republicans. Now, the party is once again suggesting that new revenue should be part of a plan to avoid the fiscal cliff, but only if that revenue coincides with a lowering of tax rates. The pitch is very similar to the plan presented by Romney, which was supposed to boost growth while lowering taxes and making up the revenue from closing loopholes:
Fortunately, President Obama has rejected this kind of approach, saying during a press conference in November that, “What I will not do is to have a process that is vague, that says we’re going to sorta-kinda raise revenue through dynamic scoring or closing loopholes that have not been identified.”