GOP retreat on taxes likely if Obama wins - Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.): “If you deal with the Medicare issue, then Republicans are far more open to looking at revenues.”
Senior Republicans say they will be forced to retreat on taxes if President Obama wins a second term in November, clearing the biggest obstacle to a deal with Democrats to defuse a year-end budget bomb that threatens to rock the U.S. economy.
Republicans have long resisted tax increases of any kind. But taxes are a major battleground in the campaign between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, Capitol Hill veterans say, and the victor will be able to claim a mandate for his policies.
“This is a referendum on taxes,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a senior member of the House Budget Committee. “If the president wins reelection, taxes are going up” for the nation’s wealthiest households, and “there’s not a lot we can do about that.”
With Election Day still more than six weeks away and the president holding a thin lead in national polls, Republicans say they are not conceding that an Obama victory is the likely outcome. But they are beginning to plan for that possibility.
If Romney wins the White House, Republicans say, their strategy is clear: They would push to maintain current tax rates through 2013, giving the new president time to draft a blueprint for overhauling the tax code and taming the $16 trillion national debt.
But if Obama wins, the GOP would have no leverage — political or procedural — to force him to abandon his pledge to raise taxes on family income over $250,000, according to senior Republicans in the House and the Senate.
So they are beginning to contemplate a compromise that would let taxes go up in exchange for Democratic concessions on GOP priorities.
“I hope, obviously, the status quo doesn’t prevail” on Nov. 6. “But if things stay as they are, and all the players are generally the same . . . finding a responsible reform for Medicare is the secret to unleashing very productive talks that would put in place a balanced solution to our fiscal problems,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “If you deal with the Medicare issue, then Republicans are far more open to looking at revenues.”