In another sign that Republican opposition to a tax rate hike on the wealthy is weakening, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said this morning he could accept a rate increase as well in return for a debt reduction deal that cuts entitlement programs and controls defense and discretionary spending.
"I would hold my nose to get the deal done," Barbour said Tuesday during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
"I, as a Republican, I would take raising the rates on the two top brackets if in return we had tax reform laid out over a period of months, if we had entitlement reform."
Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, also said it was important to get defense spending and other discretionary non-defense spending under control as part of complete agreement.
"So, I think if you have the whole package, I would hold my nose, despite the fact that raising those two tax brackets is bad economics, bad for jobs, is going to hurt the economy," Barbour stressed.
What I wouldn't do is vote for [a tax rate hike] and do nothing else," he added.
"I agree completely," responded host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman from Florida.
The comments from Barbour came as speculation grows over whether a deal could be close between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner to head off the automatic spending cuts and across the board tax increases due to take place at the end of the year. The two met alone on Sunday in an effort to strike some sort of bargain that would be acceptable to both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Barbour, however, said if the president continues to insist on "new spending in whatever the deal is," Republicans and the American people would have a hard time accepting it.
"That's not what the American people thought the fiscal cliff was all about," he said. "They thought it was about trying to have something to force our Congress and our president to do something about our deficit and debt situation."
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