Republicans urged U.S. House Speaker John Boehner stop fighting tax increases for the rich as President Barack Obama insisted rates rise for the top 2 percent.
The GOP lawmakers said they were willing to discuss raising rates on taxable income above $250,000 because they saw that concession as clearing the way for a broad deal that would also rein in the cost of Social Security and Medicare, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
"I and some others are advocating giving the president what he wants," Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, told the newspaper.
He stressed this concession must be part of a package that slows federal borrowing and reduces the debt $4 trillion to $5 trillion.
"Quite frankly, some people in this 2 percent who call me, they're more worried about the fiscal cliff than about the rates going up a couple points. That has bigger risk for them," said LaTourette, who is retiring in January.
LaTourette is a close ally of Boehner, a fellow Ohio Republican.
Rep. Thomas Rooney, R-Fla., told the Post, "If there are truly real entitlement reforms that are going to preserve Social Security and Medicare for generations to come, it's going to be very difficult for me to oppose" higher tax rates for the rich.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a fiscal and social conservative, told MSNBC: "Personally, I know we have to raise revenue. I don't really care which way we do it. Actually, I would rather see the rates go up than do it the other way, because it gives us a greater chance to reform the tax code and broaden the base in the future."
The GOP remarks were a reversal from harsh criticism from conservative Republicans Tuesday, who chastised Boehner for proposing $800 billion in new tax revenue -- a proposal the White House rejected because it did not include tax-rate increases on taxable incomes above $250,000.
Boehner's $800 billion in revenue would be raised without increasing rates but by closing loopholes and deductions in a broad tax-code rewrite.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a leading member of the Tea Party movement, assailed Boehner's proposal Tuesday, saying it would "destroy American jobs."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on Facebook: "One party proposes 800 billion in tax increases. In an effort to counter them and continue to be the 'low tax, small government' party, the other party's leadership proposes ... wait for it ... 800 billion in tax increases."
Boehner told reporters Wednesday: "I believe it is appropriate to put revenues on the table. Now, the revenues that we are putting on the table are going to come from -- guess who? -- the rich."
Obama, who spoke with Boehner Wednesday, remained adamant about letting rates rise for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers. Without such a deal, he is "absolutely" ready to go over the cliff, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told CNBC.
Geithner also said the administration would pursue deeper spending cuts once Republicans softened their position on allowing tax rates to rise.
Republicans are increasingly worried they could be blamed if Washington doesn't resolve the so-called fiscal cliff impasse and more than $500 billion in year-end spending cuts and tax increases kick in, the Post said.
Nearly 90 percent of U.S. households would face higher taxes, and economists say the economy could fall back into recession.
Some Republicans think if they give in on tax rates now, they could be in a strong bargaining position on tackling Social Security and Medicare early next year, when Obama will need Congress to raise the $16.4 trillion limit on federal borrowing, the Post said.
The U.S. government has $16.308 trillion in debt, putting it just beneath the $16.4 trillion limit set by Congress. The government is expected to run out of emergency measures to avoid hitting the debt ceiling by February or March, the Congressional Budget Office has said.
Obama warned Republicans Wednesday not to pursue a course that would set up a fresh battle over the debt limit, like the U.S. debt-ceiling crisis of July and August 2011, which Obama called a "catastrophe."
"I want to send a very clear message to people here: We are not going to play that game next year," Obama told the Business Roundtable trade group, referring to Republicans using the debt limit to negotiate further spending cuts.
"That is a bad strategy for America, it's a bad strategy for your businesses, and it is not a game that I will play," Obama told the big-business executives.
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