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Rank and File Show Flexibility on Fiscal Cliff

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Carper, right, left a Tuesday Democratic Conference meeting on the fiscal cliff saying he believes members of his party could support a deal that has taxes and spending cuts.

Even some staunch conservatives did not rule out the idea of voting for Boehner’s $1 million plan. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina likened a vote for the backup proposal to the debt ceiling votes — a necessary evil — but he indicated that he and others may need some sweeteners to consider a tax rate increase.

“I voted to raise the debt ceiling, which is something I never thought that I would do, but I did that because of cut, cap and balance. It would fix the system. I’ll consider anything that fixes the system,” he said referencing a bill that would have required passage of a balanced-budget amendment to raise the debt ceiling. House Republicans passed it in 2011, but it died in the Senate.

Though Democratic leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada slammed the GOP plan to pass a millionaires’ tax some Democrats championed just last year, the public sparring appeared to be a sideshow. Both parties look to be coming closer in both rhetoric and policy. The subtle convergence of long-held talking points was as telling a sign as any that a deal may yet be forged by the end of the year.

“It is a reality that taxes are going to go up as it is, so we should characterize this in the simplest, most straightforward way that we can, and that is, ‘Any effort on the part of the House right now will be to reduce taxes, not increase them,’” said conservative Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., in an attempt to reframe the debate among Republicans.

Of course, not everyone is holding their fire as the White House and speaker continue to trade proposals. Some of the most conservative members of the House Republican Conference left the morning meeting fuming. When asked if he would support Boehner’s “plan B,” Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho said, “I’m a hell no.”

Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio said that allowing anyone’s taxes to go up is a concession he and others simply may not be willing to make.

“Once you cross that line and say, ‘It’s OK for some people’s taxes to go up,’ I think it’s a mistake for the Republican Party,” he said.

Many others were hoping after the morning meeting for more specifics before they made up their minds. That may be why Republican leaders added the estate and AMT provisions. Members coming out of the morning meeting were under the impression that the bill would be a clean extension of the lower tax rates. And it’s also why GOP leaders called for the second session on Tuesday evening.

And, of course, not every Democrat is pleased either. The White House’s most recent offer included raising the threshold for tax hikes from those making more than $250,000 to $400,000. It also included “chained CPI,” which changes the calculation of the consumer price index in order to limit cost-of-living increases for programs, including Social Security.

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