By Molly K. Hooper - 09/21/12 04:19 PM EDT
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) split with several members of his conference on Friday, arguing that a second term for President Obama does not mean taxes will go up.
Asked if an Obama win would create a mandate to raise taxes, Boehner responded, “no.”
One of Obama’s main campaign arguments is that families with annual incomes over $250,000 should pay higher taxes. He argues the Bush-era tax rates on those families should be allowed to expire.
Republicans want to extend all of the Bush-era tax rates beyond the end of 2012, when they now are scheduled to expire. But some Republicans have suggested they would have less leverage to save those upper income rates in an end-of-year fight over the tax cuts if Obama wins in November.
“This is a referendum on taxes,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told The Washington Post on Thursday. “If the president wins reelection, taxes are going up” for the nation’s wealthiest households, and “there’s not a lot we can do about that.”
Separately, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday said on Fox Business Network that the presidential election will determine if taxes go up.
“If President Obama is re-elected, taxes are going up. If Mitt Romney is elected, taxes will not go up,” Cantor said.
While the Republican statements can be read as an effort to gin up votes for Romney, they can also be read as a signal that the GOP is ready to give in on higher tax rates on the rich if Obama wins.
Many Republicans want to avoid $55 billion in cuts to national security that will be triggered in January under last summer’s debt-ceiling deal, which could give Democrats leverage in the end of year fight. Those cuts will be hard to avoid if the GOP is also unwilling to give ground on the upper income tax rates.
Boehner predicted that Republicans will regain control of the House, which would mean divided government for at least two additional years should Obama win in November.
“Our goal is to have tax reform and entitlement reform, and we all know that these are probably going to have to travel on parallel paths,” Boehner said.
Economists have said a new recession could be triggered if Washington does nothing to prevent tax hikes and spending cuts from being implemented in January.