Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, favored the midrange $2 trillion, voicing doubts about how they could sell a $4 trillion deal to their rank and file, officials said, since it would involve tax increases.
So, as always, the thing stopping Republicans from getting serious about fiscal policy is their fear of raising taxes. Nonetheless, John Boehner has been privately telling the White House that he is open to it. According to the Washington Post, Boehner is willing to discuss extending the Bush middle-class tax cuts without extending the tax cuts for the wealthy.
In private talks with the White House, Boehner has discussed various options for tax policy. One idea under discussion, according to aides in both parties, is a proposal to jump-start a thorough rewrite of the tax code.
Under that scenario, Republicans would agree to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, leaving open the possibility that the Bush tax cuts that benefit the nation’s wealthiest households would expire next year. That would be a huge win for Democrats, who have long pledged to end tax breaks for the wealthy.
In return, Democrats would agree to a rewrite of the tax code that would eliminate dozens of tax breaks and use the cash to lower income tax rates, a GOP priority.
This is exactly what President Obama proposed in his April speech when he endorsed not only ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but also tax reform aimed at closing loopholes to generate revenue and reduce nominal rates, so it's surprising to see Boehner putting it on the table. I'd bet Boehner's not actually serious, but even if he is, it's impossible to imagine him getting a significant number of Republicans to follow his lead. If they did, it could show that Republicans can be serious about deficit reduction after all. But they aren't, and they won't.