Republicans Cave on Bush Tax Cuts in Exchange For Entitlement Reform

On Sunday, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) appeared to concede to Democrats on how revenue increases will factor into any possible deal on the fiscal cliff. He also said he would likely vote to increase taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Americans in order to refocus the debate on entitlement reform and improve the GOP’s bargaining position in any possible deal.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Corker said that President Obama “has the upper hand on taxes and you have to pass something to keep it from happening … [if we were to raise] the top 2% rates, and that’s it, all of a sudden we do have the leverage of the debt ceiling.” He also implied that doing so would give the Republican Party the necessary political support to hold the debt-ceiling hostage in exchange for entitlement cuts:

Here are some of the highlights, as reported by ThinkProgress:

CORKER: The Republicans know they have the debt ceiling that is coming up around the corner and, the leverage is going to shift, as soon as we get beyond this issue. The leverage is going to shift, to our side where hopefully we’ll do the same thing we did last time and that is if the president wants to raise the debt limit by $2 trillion we get $2 trillion in spending reduction and, hopefully, this time, it is mostly oriented towards entitlement and with no process. [...]

[Obama] has the upper hand on taxes and you have to pass something to keep it from happening. We only have one body. If we were to pass, for instance, raising the top 2 rates, and that’s it, all of a sudden we do have the leverage of the debt ceiling and we haven’t given that up so the only way the debt ceiling.

By now, the GOP is feeling the pressure of overwhelming public support for ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% of earners. Alarmingly for the conservative caucus, fewer than half of Republicans polled in a recent Associated Press-Gfk poll support an extension of the cuts for the nation’s wealthiest Americans. Just 32% of those surveyed support extending the tax cuts to all Americans. This puts congressional Republicans squarely at odds with public opinion, which is leading to a slow-but-steady withdrawal of prominent politicians from Grover Norquist’s infamous tax pledge.

The president himself recently condemned the GOP’s strategy, saying “that is a bad strategy for America, it’s a bad strategy for your businesses and it’s not a game I will play,” adding that most Americans remember the “catastrophe” of August 2011’s debt ceiling negotiations, which elevated interest rates enough to cost taxpayers approximately 18.9 billion dollars. It remains unclear but likely that Republicans will repeat their opposition to a debt ceiling increase unless any new revenues are matched by equal or greater spending cuts.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), also on the show, warned Corker that his “position is untenable politically and it will not last. You will not be able to hold it.”