Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Tuesday that the GOP should accept a tax deal that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans.
"The first thing I’d do is make sure we don’t raise taxes on 98 percent of the American people," Cole told the New York Times. "We’ll get some credit for that, and it’s the right thing to do."
Cole's statement is a high-profile break from House GOP leadership, which has thus far resisted a partial extension of the expiring Bush-era tax rates in talks over a deficit-reduction package, instead calling for maintaining current rates across the board.
Many Republicans have objected to a deal that would raise the tax rate on the wealthiest taxpayers, instead preferring to eliminate deductions and loopholes that would raise the effective tax on the wealthiest without seeing their actual rate increase.
Republicans are also concerned they would lose leverage as they seek to lower federal spending and push more comprehensive tax reform in talks.
But Cole said economic certainty for the vast majority of families and business was important to consider.
"I don’t believe in holding the American people hostage to this debate," Cole said. "Let’s get what we can now, then go back and try to get the rest. Where there is common ground with the president, we should seize that common ground."
Cole's stance is likely to raise pressure on GOP lawmakers as President Obama takes his case for extending the expiring Bush-era tax rates for all but the top 2 percent of income-earners to the public.
Obama has met with small business leaders and middle class families he says will be affected by the tax changes. On Wednesday, Obama will take his push on the road, visiting a business in Pennsylvania to promote his case.
President Obama also warned that failing to quickly extend the majority of the Bush-era cuts was tantamount to holding the "middle class hostage."
"We should at least do what we agree on, and that's to keep middle-class taxes lower," Obama said at a press conference earlier this month. "And I'll bring everyone in to sign it right away so we can give folks some certainty before the holiday season."