Rep. Tom Cole is offering no apologies for breaking ranks with his Republican leadership to urge acceptance of President Barack Obama's proposal to raise tax rates on the wealthy but extend tax cuts for income below $250,000.
In fact, he reiterated that view again today in an interview on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," , saying he still thinks it's "the right direction" to go, despite an admonishment Wednesday from House Speaker John Boehner that the GOP conference stick with its position against tax rate increases of any kind.
The Oklahoma Republican said he respects Boehner as the "chief negotiator" in talks with the White House on the debt crisis and would likely support any deal he "thinks is the right one."
But he added, "If we can give the American people an early Christmas gift [by extending most of the current tax cuts], if they can listen to the debate, instead of being worried that their own taxes are going to go up, I think that actually strengthens our hand."
Cole said he agrees with Boehner that the president has "to get more specific" about spending cuts "if we're going to have a deal." But in the meantime, he said it would put more pressure on the president if the GOP agrees to extending the so-called Bush-era tax cuts for income earners making less than $250,000, even if it means allowing the current rates on the 2 percent of Americans who make more than that to expire on Dec. 31.
"I think we should do that," he said.
Cole said he never intended for his comments in favor of accepting Obama's proposal to go public. They were leaked, he said, from a private meeting with other Republicans.
"I think at the end of the day, having an honest discussion is a good thing not a bad thing. They asked my opinion . . . I told them. I haven't changed my mind," he said.
"I think it would be a step in the right direction."
Asked whether other members of the Republican conference share his position, Cole declined to offer any names. But he said, "There's certainly a division of opinion, or a variety of opinions, I should say, inside the Republican conference." .
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