Republican Rep. Tom Cole urged colleagues in a private session Tuesday to vote to extend the Bush tax rates for all but the highest earners before the end of the year — and to battle over the rest later.Cole is right—this wouldn't violate Norquist's pledge. Republicans would be voting to cut taxes on every dollar of income below $250,000. Yes, rates would rise on income over $250,000—but that's current law. Republicans can't stop that from happening. The question is whether they'll join with Democrats on extending everything else. Cole understands the politics of the situation:
The Oklahoma Republican said in an interview with POLITICO that he believes such a vote would not violate Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge and that he’s not alone within Republican circles.
“I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now,” he said of freezing income tax rates for all but the top 2 percent of earners. “It doesn’t mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don’t.”But don't get too excited—this isn't exactly the sound of the elephant's back breaking. Despite his opinion, Cole told Politico that he is likely to vote for whatever House Republican leadership asks him to support. So he might know what the right thing to do is, but there's no guarantee that he'll actually do it.
Instead, he told POLITICO, Republicans should fight the president over tax rates for the top earners after everyone else is taken care of. That would rob the president of the argument that Republicans are holding up tax cuts for all but the top earners, Cole said.
“Some people think that’s our leverage in the debate. It’s the Democrats’ leverage in the debate,” he said.
7:34 AM PT: House Speaker John Boehner just shot down Cole's proposal. Asked about it in a press conference, Boehner said: "I told Tom that i disagreed with him. ... This is not the right approach." So that's that, I guess.