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Friday, November 9, 2012

Boehner Digs In On Opposition to Tax Hikes for Wealthy

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio dug in Friday on his opposition to raising tax rates on the rich, claiming his own mandate with the re-election of a House Republican majority but expressing confidence that any deal he can reach with President Obama can get through the conservative House.

“When the president and I have been able to come to an agreement, there has been no problem getting it passed here in the House,” he told reporters. Some House Republicans have already warne him against cutting a deal without seeking their approval first.

Any agreement to avert a fiscal crisis in January when hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic tax increases and spending cuts kick in now revolves around the definition of tax increases. Mr. Boehner is holding the line against any increase in tax rates, even for the richest Americans that currently are in the 35 percent tax bracket. But he is leaving open the possibility of a reformed tax code that does raise more r evenue than the existing code.

“It's clear that there are a lot of special interest loopholes in the tax code, both corporate and personal,” he said. “It's also clear that there are all kinds of deductions, some of which make sense, others don't. And by lowering rates and cleaning up the tax code, we know we're going to get more economic growth.”

Democrats say they will not accept a deal that just counts on economic growth to produce more revenues. Taxes on the rich must go up, they say. Otherwise spending cuts and changes to programs like Medicare will be borne completely by the poor and middle class. Because President Obama won re-election on a clear platform that called for higher taxes on the rich, Democrats believe they have a mandate to push their position.

But Mr. Boehner said he has a mandate as well.

“There's a Republican majority here in the House,” he said. “The American people re-elected a Republ ican majority, and I'm proud of the fact that our team in a very difficult year was able to maintain our majority.”

That majority is a fractious one. Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana, conceded that some moderate Republicans are ready to give in to Mr. Obama on tax increases for the rich, but he said conservatives are not.

“A majority of Americans thought it was just fine to raise taxes on higher income people, but that's more of an emotional response, more 'I'm in pain, I want someone else to pay,'” he conceded in an interview. But, he added, “how does that solve America's problems? That's counterproductive to go down that road.”

Follow Jonathan Weisman on Twitter at @jonathanweisman.