Top House Republican Backs New Tax Revenues In Budget Deal

U.S. Rep Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, who won his race in the state's primary, speaks at a Republican Party victory party in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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A senior House Republican said Friday he wants tax revenues “on the table” in a broader budget deal, breaking with his leadership team’s strong opposition to any tax increases.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip and close ally of Speaker John Boehner, told Bloomberg’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” he wants the newly formed budget conference committee — of which he is a member — to reach a deal that includes entitlement changes and some added revenue via curbing tax loopholes (but not by raising rates).

“Well, I think that’s possible,” Cole said in an interview set to air Friday night. “I think both sides would like to deal with the sequester. And we’re willing to put more revenue on the table to do that, and we would like to do it with entitlement savings.”

The congressman said a deal “could” include curbing tax loopholes, although it “depends on what they are.” He expressed openness to revenue-raising tax reforms on repatriation of stranded profits overseas and ratcheting back the carried interest loophole, which allows private equity firms to avoid paying some taxes by having their income taxed as capital gains. “I think that’s certainly — this is my personal view, it’s not speaking for anybody else — that ought to be something on the table,” he said. “So those kinds of things are reasonable.”

He said the GOP is “much more into what I’d call pro-growth revenue” like expanded offshore drilling and “one-time things like timber sales.” He acknowledged that “there are some” Republicans who oppose any new tax revenue, no matter what. “But, you know, the reality is, you’re going to have to have a deal here. And a deal means everybody gives something up.”

The Oklahoma Republican said he wants to repeal sequestration, especially the automatic cuts to defense spending, and enact entitlement reforms that go beyond what President Barack Obama has offered in his budget blueprint. The White House and Democratic leaders have insisted they won’t touch retirement or health benefit plans without new tax revenues. This has been the central sticking point in ongoing spending since 2011.

Cole has a tendency to telegraph Boehner’s wishes ahead of budget fights in the (usually vain) hope that conservatives come around to it. He tried talking conservatives back from the brink ahead of the fiscal cliff late in 2012 and the recent government shutdown, failing both times. And barring a miraculous epiphany among conservatives (which is especially unlikely this close to primary season), House GOP members will push to thwart new revenues.

The bicameral budget conference panel has until Dec. 13 to come to a deal or disband.

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