- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Republican leaders struggled Tuesday to contain the backlash from conservatives over the GOP’s offer of $800 billion in tax increases to head off the “fiscal cliff” — a move that didn’t impress the White House, even as it spawned a rebellion on the right.

Conservative lawmakers and interest groups said House Speaker John A. Boehner’s offer abandoned core Republican principles and earned no credit from a White House that has insisted on even bigger tax increases and balked at major spending cuts.

“This isn’t rocket science,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. “Everyone knows that when you take money out of the economy, it destroys jobs, and everyone knows that when you give politicians more money, they spend it.”

The conservative Heritage Foundation also dismissed the Republican plan, saying it fails Mr. Boehner’s own test of seriousness because it doesn’t do enough to curtail entitlement spending.

Even as he faces resistance on higher taxes, Mr. Boehner pivoted Tuesday, saying after a bipartisan meeting with House Republican leaders and a handful of governors that spending cuts are crucial to the deal.

** FILE ** Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican (Associated Press)
** FILE ** Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican (Associated Press) more >

“Yesterday, Republicans made a good-faith offer to avert the fiscal cliff that includes significant spending cuts and new revenue without raising tax rates on small businesses and costing jobs,” Mr. Boehner said.

“I will continue to urge governors of both parties to talk to small-business men and women in their states about the impact it will have on small businesses if Washington raises their tax rates, as President Obama is demanding, rather than cutting spending and reforming entitlement programs.”

Led by Mr. Boehner, the House’s leadership sent a $2.2 trillion proposal to the White House on Monday that included $900 billion in cuts to entitlement programs and $300 billion in lower discretionary spending, but also promised $800 billion more in taxes, which aides said would come from eliminating deductions and loopholes claimed by the wealthy.

The White House rejected the proposal, saying it doesn’t believe the Republican numbers add up and noting Mr. Obama will insist that the wealthy pay a higher income tax rate, rather than just have loopholes closed.

“Unfortunately, the speaker’s proposal right now is still out of balance,” Mr. Obama said Tuesday in a Bloomberg Television interview. “You know, he talks, for example, about $800 billion worth of revenues, but he says he’s going to do that by lowering rates. And when you look at the math, it doesn’t work.”

Republicans and Democrats are trying to avoid the fiscal cliff — the across-the-board tax increases and $110 billion in automatic spending cuts that will kick in at the beginning of next year if lawmakers can’t agree on a budget deal. Going over the cliff, many economists predict, would plunge the nation into a short, sharp recession — but over the long haul, the spending cuts and tax increases would leave the federal government in better fiscal and economic shape, the Congressional Budget Office says.

Lawmakers, though, want to minimize the pain. All sides want to extend the lower tax rates for most Americans, leaving the chief dispute over what happens to the tax cuts for couples making $250,000 or more a year.

In the House, Democrats launched a petition drive to try to circumvent Republicans’ control and force a vote on a bill that would extend tax cuts for most Americans, leaving only the wealthiest without an extension.

“Everyone here agrees: Taxes should not go up on middle-class families. Democrats and Republicans can come together to make that happen,” said Rep. Timothy J. Walz, Minnesota Democrat, who launched the petition.

If he can gather signatures from a majority of House members — which would mean at least two dozen Republicans — it would force the Democrats’ bill to the floor.

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