Boehner Shows Flexibility on Extending Tax Cuts

Posted September 12, 2010 at 10:37am

Updated: 5:44 p.m.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) acknowledged Sunday that he would support allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans in exchange for extending the cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year.

“If the only option I have is to vote for those at 250 and below, of course I’m going to do that,” Boehner said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” in the strongest sign among GOP officials of a willingness to compromise on a tax package before the November elections. The tax cuts, which were enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush, are set to expire Jan. 1.

“But I’m going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans,” he said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, in a statement Sunday afternoon, said administration officials “welcome John Boehner’s change in position and support for the middle class tax cuts, but time will tell if his actions will be anything but continued support for the failed policies that got us into this mess.”

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) echoed Boehner on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think the Republicans will probably surprise the president by offering to pass whatever tax cut he’ll sign, as long as it isn’t offset by tax increases,” he said.

Gingrich then said Republicans should revisit the rest of the tax package in January.

“I think Republicans ought to say, ‘We’re going to pass any tax cut that you’ll sign that has no increases and we’ll come back in January as a majority and see if we can pass the rest,'” he said.

Austan Goolsbee, the new chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, was supportive on Sunday of moving forward with a tax package given Boehner’s comments.

“If he’s truly saying that we can, as the president called for, get a broad consensus to extend the middle-class tax cuts, we should do it,” Goolsbee said on ABC’s “This Week”.

Passing the cuts before they expire may not be easy as it appears.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “compromise has been very hard to get.” He suggested that tax legislation would first need to pass in the Senate before the House would take it up.

Democrats are facing a struggling economy and high unemployment in a midterm election year. Hoyer turned the tax issue on its head, saying Republicans are responsible for initiating the potential tax increase by enacting the temporary tax cut in the first place.

“We are not going to allow the Republican policy of increasing taxes by having these taxes expire,” Hoyer said. “We’re not going to allow that to happen to working Americans.”

White House senior adviser David Axelrod challenged a GOP proposal to temporarily extend the tax cuts across the board for two more years.
“They called the last set of tax cuts temporary. … I think we have to assume that they’re going to keep pushing this forward,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He said the administration’s proposal would extend the tax cuts for all Americans on the first $250,000 of income. “So if you’re a millionaire, you get what everybody else gets, up to $250,000.”

“We agree on the middle-class tax cuts. Let’s not hold them hostage while we debate whether we’re going to give this very small number of people at the top a tax cut that we can’t afford,” he said.