Isakson would back bill to extend middle-class rates if ‘only choice’ left

GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) on Sunday said he would be willing to vote for a “fiscal cliff” solution that only prevented tax rises on the middle class if it was the only option left.

“If we get down to the end of this year and the only choice we have is to save taxes going up on the middle class, then I would support that,” said Isakson on ABC’s “This Week.” 

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“But I wish we would have a comprehensive bill that dealt with spending, dealt with entitlements and dealt with taxes altogether,” he added. “That's really what we ought to do.”

Isakson’s comments come as talks to reach a deal to avoid January’s looming tax rate rises and automatic spending cuts appear deadlocked. Both the House and Senate are in recess until after Christmas and the President is in Hawaii with his family.

President Obama has insisted that tax hikes on the wealthy be an element of any deal, but many Republicans have resisted those calls, arguing that raising rates on any income group could weaken the economy. Both sides have said the other will be to blame for higher taxes on the middle class if a deal is not struck. 

Polls, though, show more voters are likely to blame Republicans if the fiscal talks fall short.

House GOP leaders last week withdrew Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” tax bill which would have extended the current tax rates for all but those earning $1 million or more when it became clear the measure lacked enough GOP support to pass.

House Republican leaders said the bill would shift pressure to Democrats on taxes, but were unable to find enough GOP support to move the measure.

Isakson said he wished that House GOP lawmakers had passed Boehner’s bill.

“I felt like the House should have gone ahead and passed Speaker Boehner's bill because it addressed the subject and we'd still be in negotiation,” he said. “And the president's statement is right, no one wants taxes to go up on the middle class. I don't want them to go up on anybody, but I'm not in the majority in the United States Senate and he's the president of the United States.

Obama has expressed hopes that Republicans will return to the negotiating table, but Boehner in the GOP weekly address on Saturday said that the onus was on Democrats to present a “responsible solution.”

Boehner said the House had already passed a measure earlier this year to extend all current tax rates and called on the Senate to take up the measure.