Boehner stands firm against tax hike

Speaker of the House John Boehner addresses the media during a news conference in the U.S. Capitol.
(Allison Shelley / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- The post-election conciliatory tone began to fade Friday, as House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) dug in against higher taxes on the wealthy that President Obama wants as part of a budget deal with Congress to avoid the year-end “fiscal cliff.”

The nation faces a confluence of automatic tax hikes and spending reductions which, economists warn, would throw the country into a recession if lawmakers and the White House cannot find agreement.

“I outlined a responsible path forward, where we can replace the spending cuts and extend the current rates, paving the way for entitlement reform as well as tax reform with lower tax rates,” Boehner said Friday in the Capitol.


Even though election-day exit polls showed most Americans have said they prefer the president’s approach -- asking upper-income households to pay higher taxes -- Boehner believes his party similarly won a mandate against tax hikes as the majority party in the House.

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The Republican speaker faces the difficult task of trying to reach an agreement with the president while preserving the principles of his conservative majority. Boehner acknowledged the Republican Party has “some work to do” after its electoral losses, but stood firm against compromising on the core principle of no new taxes.

Instead, the speaker has proposed counting on new revenue from lowering tax rates and closing loopholes that he argues will grow the economy and lead to increased tax revenues. Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York has called that “Rumpelstiltskin economics,” spinning straw into gold. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney proposed a similar approach, and it was panned by economists as not adding up.

Boehner made his comments just hours before Obama had scheduled an address at the White House, and pushed the president to take the lead on the issue. He noted that the two had a cordial conversation after the election, and Obama has called congressional leaders to the White House for a meeting next week.

“This is an opportunity for the president to lead,” Boehner said.

The speaker has long made it clear that he would like to be associated with a “grand bargain” that would put the country’s finances on better footing, even as past attempts have fallen apart. And he did so again Friday, saying, “2013 should be the year we begin to solve our debt through tax reform and entitlement reform.”

But whether Boehner can find the political compromise between the president and the GOP’s right flank remains to be seen.

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