GOP Sen. Corker: Party Should Accept Tax Hikes To Get Spending Cuts

As pressure builds for a "fiscal cliff" deal, several key players talked about strategy on the Sunday morning news shows. Meanwhile, Politico reports that Republicans' hope of a big victory on cutting entitlement spending has dimmed while The Hill looks at Democrats' new willingness to consider means testing for Medicare.

Politico: On Entitlements, Republicans Are Ready To Take Any Victory They Can Get
But what kind of victory can Republicans really hope to win? They're going to have to lower their sights — by a lot — from the big ideas they pushed in the presidential campaign. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan wanted to turn Medicare into a competition between private plans. They wanted to scale back Medicaid, and turn it into block grants for states. Nothing like that is remotely likely now. With Obama in the White House for another four years, Republicans are looking for something much smaller, even a down payment on Medicare, that they can still call a victory (Nather, 12/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Corker: Tax Hike On Wealthy Could Give GOP An Edge
In an interview on Fox News Sunday, (Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.) said he was inclined to support the tax rate increase on wealthy Americans, arguing it would raise about $400 billion to $800 billion in revenues, less than the tax increases Democrats have previously sought. Sen. Corker said that if the GOP grants Mr. Obama the tax increase, they can then use the looming vote on raising the debt ceiling to force cuts to entitlement programs. Mr. Corker did not specify what entitlements he was referring to. But Republicans have been talking about cuts to Medicare, including raising the age when retirees can enroll in the health care program (Barnes and Ackerman, 12/9). 

Politico: Corker: Obama's Tax Offer May Be 'Best Route' For GOP
Republicans may need to concede the current tax fight to President Barack Obama, who holds the "upper hand" in that battle, Sen. Bob Corker said Sunday. "There is a growing group of folks looking at this and realizing that we don’t have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue," the Tennessee Republican told "Fox News Sunday." "I think [that notion] has merit. ... I actually am beginning to believe that is the best route for us to take." ... Corker also said the GOP will have move leverage in the spending and entitlements debate next year because it can use the threat of not raising the debt ceiling to craft a favorable deal with Obama (Gerstein, 12/9).

Fox News: Republican Sen. Corker Opens Door To Raising Rates As Part Of Fiscal Deal
Another Republican senator opened the door Sunday to raising rates on top earners as part of negotiations over the looming fiscal crisis -- saying the concession would shift the focus to entitlement reform. Sen. Bob Corker, in doing so, joins a small but growing group of Republicans who say the party should cave to President Obama on this issue in order to not only resolve the current crisis but move on and start negotiating spending cuts, which could result in more significant deficit reduction. Without a deal, taxes are set to rise on everybody in 23 days (12/9).

The Hill: GOP Rep. Cole: Take Obama's Offer To Gain Tax Cuts For '98 Percent'
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Sunday that House Republicans should agree to extending tax cuts for the majority of U.S. taxpayers. Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Cole continued to champion his case that the GOP caucus should take the deal that President Obama is offering: keeping tax rates in place for those making less than $250,000 a year, while allowing rates to increase on the wealthy (Bogardus, 12/9).

The Washington Post: Entitlement Debate Sparks Disagreement Along Party Lines
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has signaled a willingness to agree to increase taxes if Democrats agree to spending cuts and entitlement reform, reiterated the importance of the latter in any deal to avert the fiscal cliff. "[A]s long as we continue to lie to the — as long as we continue to lie to the American people, that you can solve this problem without adjusting and working on those programs, it is dishonest and beneath anybody in Washington," Coburn said about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on ABC’s "This Week With George Stephanopoulos." Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said Democrats have already made meaningful spending cuts and reforms to Medicare (Sullivan, 12/9).

The Hill: McCarthy: Obama Needs To 'Get In The Room' And Spell Out Spending Cuts
The top lieutenant to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made it clear Sunday that the House remains adamantly opposed to raising taxes on the wealthy in any deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff." Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Republicans wanted President Obama to "get in the room" and begin discussing entitlement reform instead of only pushing for tax hikes (Pecquet, 12/9).

Politico: Bowles Sees 'Progress' Toward Fiscal Cliff Deal
One of the namesakes of America's best-known debt-cutting plan, former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, said Sunday he sees signs of progress towards a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff the nation faces at the end of the year. ... "They've started to tango there and any time you've got two guys in there tangoing you've got a chance to get it done," Bowles said, referring to President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). ... Bowles said Obama has insisted on higher tax rates for the wealthy, but has also indicated a willingness to consider entitlement costs. Bowles also praised Boehner for not including potential deal breakers in his recent proposal (Gerstein, 12/9).

The Hill: Simpson Expects Tax Rates On Wealthy To Rise
Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) predicted Sunday that tax rates for the wealthy will likely go up next year. ... Bowles, however, noted that raising taxes on the wealthy wouldn’t be enough to bring down the nation’s deficit. "Even if you raise the top rates back to the Clinton rates, that only creates $400 billion over 10 years. That’s $40 billion a year. We got a trillion dollar a year deficit. That alone won't solve the problem," Bowles said. Bowles said spending cuts must be made in order to bring down the debt. "We have to slow the rate of growth of healthcare to the rate of growth of the economy," Bowles said (Bogardus, 12/9).

The Hill: Democrats Warm To Medicare Change That Late Sen. Edward Kennedy Opposed
Democrats in Congress are changing their tune on means testing in Medicare, an idea the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) resisted for decades. Leading Democratic lawmakers have suggested that raising premiums for wealthy Medicare beneficiaries could be a matter of common ground with Republicans in the ongoing deficit-reduction talks. ... The comments reflect a major shift for Democrats on the issue since 2003, when Kennedy threatened to filibuster the now Medicare prescription drug law after a means-testing amendment passed the Senate. At the time, Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), argued that means testing in Medicare would kill the program's promise of equal care at equal charge (Viebeck, 12/8).

The Hill: Black Caucus Chairman Backs Means-Testing To Trim Medicare Costs
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) on Friday proposed means-testing Medicare benefits as a way to reduce the deficit, an indication that Democrats could be warming to the idea as a way to compromise with Republicans on the so-called "fiscal cliff." Cleaver, the influential chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, suggested Friday that more aggressive means-testing would be a good alternative to cutting program benefits for seniors. "I think most rational people, including Democrats, agree we have to make some cuts and deal with Medicare," Cleaver said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" (Viebeck, 12/7).

Los Angeles Times: President Obama Insists On Tax Increases For The Wealthy
President Obama said Saturday that he won't compromise on his proposals to raise marginal tax rates on high earners as part of the fiscal negotiations between the White House and Republican leaders in Congress. ... He said he was "ready to work with Republicans" to help reduce the deficit through spending cuts for so-called entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Obama did not specify which specific cuts he would support (Bennett, 12/8).

CNN: Obama, Rubio Offer Different Prescriptions For Middle Class
(Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.) spoke against Obama's plan in the GOP address, saying instead, "our goal should be to generate new revenue by creating new taxpayers, not new taxes." "We must get the national debt under control. Tax increases will not solve our $16 trillion debt. Only economic growth and a reform of entitlement programs will help control the debt," the Florida Republican said (Wallace, 12/8).

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