Cole defends position on tax compromise
Congressman strays from party in fiscal cliff battle
Republican Rep. Tom Cole, who drew sharp disagreement from House Speaker John Boehner when he broke from party lines in the fiscal cliff negotiations, further stood by his position Wednesday night but added he would support the GOP no matter what decision was reached.
"I'm one voice. I'm not king of the universe, and I support my speaker," Cole, from Oklahoma, said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360." "I recognize he's the speaker. I support my conference."
In the fiscal cliff debate, Republicans and Democrats disagree over whether the Bush-era tax cuts should expire on the wealthy. President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats want to let tax rates increase for households making more than $250,000, while House Republicans insist the tax rates should stay in place for all Americans, including the highest income earners.
Cole sparked a wave of frustration Wednesday among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill when comments he made at a private meeting were leaked and reported. The congressman had said he thought they should extend just the tax-rate cuts for those making $250,000 or less by the end of year and hash out a deal for the wealthy at a later date - a position that Democrats support.
"If we agree that taxes shouldn't go up on 98% of the people, shouldn't we take that now and get that set aside and make sure that they know they're taxes aren't going up?" Cole said on CNN.
Republicans, including Boehner, expressed disagreement with the approach, saying they should stand firm in getting a deal now that includes tax breaks for everyone, not just the middle class.
But Cole argued such a strategy was too risky.
"I don't think you ever use the American people as a hostage in a negotiating-type situation," he said.
Cole insisted he still opposes raising taxes on the wealthy but prefers to take care of the rest of Americans now before the tax cuts expire at the start of 2013 as part of the "fiscal cliff."
Asked about Grover Norquist, the anti-tax heavyweight known for persuading Republicans to sign a pledge against raising taxes, Cole said he "admires" Norquist and considers him a friend but disagrees his position flies in the face of the pledge.
"I signed that pledge; I'm honored to do it. I don't think in this case we would be breaking it by making what are temporary tax cuts permanent. I think we'd be doing the right thing," he said. "I want to make all of them permanent, quite frankly. So this is a really a debate about political tactics; it's not a difference over political ideology."
Earlier in the day Cole told reporters that spending cuts and entitlement reform should still get serious attention, but added the tactic could spare concerns among "a lot of people whose taxes we don't intend to raise."
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