The House GOP caucus remains supportive of Speaker John Boehner, even though he is open to tax-rate increases. “There is no revolt, no coup,” says a conservative House member, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “Boehner is going to compromise, but people recognize that he’s in a tough spot.”
In a conference meeting this morning at the Capitol, Boehner told his colleagues that he would like to extend current tax rates for “99.5 percent” of taxpayers, and let the rates expire on those making more than $1 million. Boehner acknowledged that it wasn’t optimal, but the best “plan B.”
“It’s important that we protect as many American taxpayers as we can,” Boehner told reporters. “Our Plan B would protect American taxpayers who make $1 million or less.” For Americans making more than $1 million, the tax rate on their income over that amount would rise from 35 percent, the current rate, to 39.6 percent.
Boehner hopes to bring his “Plan B” legislation to the floor later this week, and plans to update members on the schedule Tuesday night. In the meantime, he said, Republicans should argue that they’re working hard to protect current tax rates.
The Tuesday meeting began at 10 a.m., and the mood was quiet and somber, sources say. Boehner wasn’t cheered or warmly embraced, but he was given respect and time to explain his strategy. “He was his usual self,” says a House staffer familiar with the session. “He wasn’t emotional; it was an update.”
Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas, a freshman, reportedly gave a well-received speech in which he supported Boehner’s push to get as much as possible in a hostile environment. “He got applause,” a second member says. “There seemed to be a consensus that Farenthold was right, that we’ve got to do a better job explaining our position.”
Conservative dissent in the room was evident, but only a handful of members spoke out forcefully against the speaker’s strategy. “There were some guys who got up there and complained that Boehner is going to violate our principles, but the rest of us mostly listened to Boehner,” says a third member.
#more#Representative Austin Scott of Georgia had reservations, and sources say he urged Boehner to push for more spending cuts. Representative Louis Gohmert of Texas told the conference that they shouldn’t accept tax-rate hikes, regardless of the circumstances.
Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, for his part, told Boehner and the conference to not give up the debt ceiling as a part of any deal, since that would cede major bargaining power, and give far too much power to the president. Two members told me that Hensarling wasn’t critical of Boehner, but the Texan, a popular conservative, did express concerns.
Who didn’t speak at the private meeting? A trio of high-profile House Republicans: Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Representative Tom Price of Georgia, and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Republican Study Committee. “I have no idea where they stand on this,” says an ally of the three members. “I don’t think they like it, but they didn’t talk.”
Outside in the hallway, where reporters lingered, members’ public comments reflected what insiders say happened inside the basement conference room. “We’re all going to support our speaker,” says Representative Pete Sessions of Texas. “We’re not going to be cliff-divers.”
“All of us recognize that the top rate is going to go up,” adds Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona, a leading fiscal hawk. “The question is: How much can we do to change that?”
“The group is full of realists,” says Representative Bob Turner of New York, a moderate Republican. “But coming out of there, I think Boehner sees he has some unity behind him.”
Representative Paul Broun of Georgia, a conservative, agrees. “The speaker is trying to find a solution,” he says. Broun probably won’t support a deal with rate hikes, but he isn’t going to try to go after Boehner. “I have confidence in him,” he says.
A few conservatives, however, did voice their discontent, especially as the conference coalesces around Boehner. “To me, it’s all a nonstarter,” says freshman representative Justin Amash of Michigan. “We just shouldn’t be raising taxes.”
Jim Jordan, the RSC chairman, was also skeptical, even though he didn’t speak up inside the conference room. “It’s a mistake,” he said when asked by reporters about raising select tax rates. “I think a lot of our members are struggling with that.”