(AP) Anti-tax conservatives say no to tax-increase deal
By STEVE PEOPLES
In the city where a protest over tax policy sparked a revolution, modern day tea party activists are cheering the recent Republican revolt in Washington that embarrassed House Speaker John Boehner and pushed the country closer to a “fiscal cliff” that forces tax increases and massive spending cuts on virtually every American.
Anti-tax conservatives from every corner of the nation echo her sentiment.
In more than a dozen interviews with The Associated Press, activists said they would rather the nation fall off the cliff than agree to a compromise that includes tax increases for any Americans, no matter how high their income. They dismiss economists’ warnings that the automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1 could trigger a fresh recession, and they overlook the fact that most people would see their taxes increase if President Barack Obama and Boehner, R-Ohio, fail to reach a year-end agreement.
The strong opposition among tea party activists and Republican leaders from New Hampshire to Wyoming and South Carolina highlights divisions within the GOP as well as the challenge that Obama and Boehner face in trying to get a deal done.
On Capitol Hill, some Republicans worry about the practical and political implications should the GOP block a compromise designed to avoid tax increases for most Americans and cut the nation’s deficit.
It’s a concern that does not seem to resonate with conservatives such as tea party activist Frank Smith of Cheyenne, Wyo. He cheered Boehner’s failure as a victory for anti-tax conservatives and a setback for Obama, just six weeks after the president won re-election on a promise to cut the deficit in part by raising taxes on incomes exceeding $250,000.
Smith said his “hat’s off” to those Republicans in Congress who rejected their own leader’s plan.
It’s not just tea party activists who want Republicans in Washington to stand firm.
In conservative states such as South Carolina and Louisiana, party leaders are encouraging members of their congressional delegations to oppose any deal that includes tax increases. Elected officials from those states have little political incentive to cooperate with the Democratic president, given that most of their constituents voted for Obama’s Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.
In Louisiana, state GOP Chairman Roger Villere said that “people are frustrated with Speaker Boehner. They hear people run as conservatives, run against tax hikes. They want them to keep their word.”
Jack Kimball, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman, said he was “elated” that conservatives thwarted Boehner. He called the looming deadline a political creation. “The Republicans really need to stand on their principles. They have to hold firm.”
Conservative opposition to compromise with Obama does not reflect the view of most Americans, according to recent public opinion polls.
A CBS News survey conducted this month found that 81 percent of adults wanted Republicans in Congress to compromise in the current budget negotiations to get a deal done rather than “stick to their positions even if it means not coming to an agreement.” The vast majority of Republicans and independent voters agreed.
Overall, 47 percent in the poll said they blamed Republicans in Congress more than Obama and Democrats for recent “difficulties in reaching agreements and passing legislation in Congress.” About one-quarter placed more blame on the Democrats and 21 percent said both were responsible.
Although negotiations broke down last week, Obama still hopes to broker a larger debt-reduction deal that includes tax increases on high earners and Republican-favored cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. If a compromise continues to prove elusive, lawmakers could pass a temporary extension that delays the cliff’s most onerous provisions and gives Congress more time to work out a longer-term solution.
That’s becoming the favored path by some Republicans leery of going over the cliff.
Mississippi Republican Chairman Joe Nosef shares his Southern colleagues’ disdain for tax increases. But he stopped short of taking an absolute position.
Matt Kibbe, president of the national organization and tea party ally, FreedomWorks, says that going over the cliff would be “a fiscal disaster.” He says “the only rational thing to do” is approve a temporary extension that prevents widespread tax increases.
But his message doesn’t seem to resonate with conservative activists in the states.
Back where the Boston Tea Party protest took place in 1773, Morabito wonders whether Boehner will survive the internal political upheaval and says Republicans need to unite against Obama.
Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Atlanta, Rachel La Corte and Michael Baker in Washington state, Thomas Beaumont in Iowa, and AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta in Washington contributed to this report.