The Corner

Coburn on the Tax Deal: It ‘Depends’

Washington — Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) is taking a wait-and-see approach to any potential deal between Republicans and President Obama on an extension of Bush-era tax rates. In an interview with National Review Online, he says that his view “depends on what’s with [any deal],” with an eye toward the details, namely how an extension of unemployment benefits, and other potential provisions, are paid. “The question [for Republicans] is: At what price are you buying?”

Turning to the debt panel, Coburn swats away criticism from anti-tax advocates, like Ryan Ellis and Grover Norquist at Americans for Tax Reform, who have slammed the Oklahoma Republican’s support of the panel’s recommendations. Ellis, for his part, has argued that Coburn’s endorsement of Bowles-Simpson constituted a violation of the ATR Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which Coburn signed. Ellis recently said via Twitter that by supporting the “Simpson-Bowles tax hikes,” Coburn was admitting that he “lied about taxes to get elected.”

Coburn will have none of that. He “rejects” the idea that any special-interest group will play an overly influential role on this issue. “The important thing is, what’s your oath?” he says. “Your oath is to the Constitution and the country. Philosophically, I do not think we need to raise taxes to get out of our problems. I do think we need to change the structure of our tax code to create growth. How you do that, well, that’s where the debate will be, and where these criticisms come in.”

Coburn’s aim is to have a full and frank debate about the country’s fiscal future in the upper chamber. “The first thing we’ll have to do, when we get on the floor, is define what the problem is,” he says.

“The problem is that we have a short period of time to fix what ails us. If we don’t, we’re not going to be in charge of making decisions about our future; the people who hold our debt are. That’s going to be very important to communicate to the American people — not just the severity of our problem, but the urgency of our problem.

That’s why I want us to have this debate. My vote on the commission doesn’t necessarily represent  how I’d vote on the floor.”

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