Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s past remarks about his openness to potential tax increases may haunt him if he chooses to run for president in 2016.
Because of his support for Common Core and amnesty legislation and his father’s broken “no new taxes” pledge, conservatives will be less likely to give Bush the benefit of the doubt for such sentiments. Bush is testing the 2016 waters this week in South Carolina, home of the first-in-the-South primary, by campaigning for Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.
After Politico reported that Bush “said he could accept tax increases in a hypothetical deficit-cutting deal,” conservative operatives said those remarks would make Bush’s potential presidential run much more difficult. Bush also reportedly “repeatedly rejected” signing Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform’s anti-tax pledge.
When asked in a 2012 congressional hearing whether “he would accept a theoretical deficit plan proposed in a 2011 presidential debate that was rejected by all eight Republican primary candidates,” Bush, according to Politico, replied, “If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we’re going to have $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement — put me in, Coach.” He said at the time that his remarks “will prove I’m not running for anything” in 2012.
A Bush spokesperson said “his record on cutting taxes and exercising strong fiscal discipline speaks for itself” and insisted that Bush “doesn’t support raising taxes.”
But the Republican establishment defended Bush’s “willingness to consider tax hikes” in comments to Politico.
Al Cardenas, formerly of the American Conservative Union, told the outlet that Bush’s openness to tax increases shows that he is a “problem solver” who “refuses to play the ideologue game for the mere sake of fitting in with today’s Washington D.C.”
Establishment Republican Vin Weber also defended Bush, saying his “answer on the tax issue was totally right, and if we’re ever going to deal with the long-term debt question, Republicans are going to have to come to grips with that.”
Bush may be better off running on his support for amnesty, Common Core, and perhaps an openness to new taxes rather than waffling back and forth like Mitt Romney. Weber said that if Bush runs in 2016, “we’ll find out if the Republican Party is open” to raising some taxes to reduce the debt.