Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said Wednesday that he would prefer the government raise more revenue by hiking tax rates, rather than by limiting deductions — a stance that departs from Republican leadership in the fiscal cliff negotiations.
“Personally, I know we have to raise revenue; I don’t really care which way we do it,” Coburn said, appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Actually, I would rather see the rates go up than do it the other way, because it gives us greater chance to reform the tax code and broaden the base in the future.”
That puts Coburn, a two-term senator from Oklahoma and leading deficit hawk, at odds with the leaders of his party, who have insisted that a tax rate increase on the wealthy is a non-starter in fiscal cliff talks. On Monday, top House Republicans proposed a deficit reduction package that would bring in $800 billion in new revenue over 10 years through limiting deductions for top earners.
“I think they’re arguing over semantics. $800 billion is $800 billion,” Coburn said. He stressed that he was no fan of either approach, adding “it’s still going to be a negative drag on the economy.”
Democrats were quick to highlight the senator’s comments as a sign the GOP’s resolve to block tax rate hikes was wavering.
“Senator Coburn is an unquestioned conservative,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a statement. “If he doesn’t provide cover for the Republicans to finally shift on tax rates, I don’t know who does.”
Another Oklahoman, Rep. Tom Cole, has also strayed from the Republican hard line against rate increases. Last week, he urged his Republican colleagues in the House to join Democrats in extending the Bush tax cuts for all but the highest earners — and wrangle over the rest later. That, he argued, would deprive Democrats of their favorite political cudgel: the argument that Republicans are blocking tax cuts for the middle class.