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Anti-tax conservatives say no to tax-increase deal
Monday - 12/24/2012, 3:55am EST
By STEVE PEOPLES
BOSTON (AP) - In the city where a protest over tax policy sparked a revolution, modern day tea party activists are cheering the recent Republican revolt in Washington that embarrassed House Speaker John Boehner and pushed the country closer to a "fiscal cliff" that forces tax increases and massive spending cuts on virtually every American.
"I want conservatives to stay strong," says Christine Morabito, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party. "Sometimes things have to get a lot worse before they get better."
Anti-tax conservatives from every corner of the nation echo her sentiment.
In more than a dozen interviews with The Associated Press, activists said they would rather the nation fall off the cliff than agree to a compromise that includes tax increases for any Americans, no matter how high their income. They dismiss economists' warnings that the automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1 could trigger a fresh recession, and they overlook the fact that most people would see their taxes increase if President Barack Obama and Boehner, R-Ohio, fail to reach a year-end agreement.
The strong opposition among tea party activists and Republican leaders from New Hampshire to Wyoming and South Carolina highlights divisions within the GOP as well as the challenge that Obama and Boehner face in trying to get a deal done.
On Capitol Hill, some Republicans worry about the practical and political implications should the GOP block a compromise designed to avoid tax increases for most Americans and cut the nation's deficit.
"It weakens the entire Republican Party, the Republican majority," Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, said Thursday night shortly after rank-and-file Republicans rejected Boehner's "Plan B" _ a measure that would have prevented tax increases on all Americans but million-dollar earners.
"I mean it's the continuing dumbing down of the Republican Party and we are going to be seen more and more as a bunch of extremists that can't even get a majority of our own people to support policies that we're putting forward," LaTourette said. "If you're not a governing majority, you're not going to be a majority very long."
It's a concern that does not seem to resonate with conservatives such as tea party activist Frank Smith of Cheyenne, Wyo. He cheered Boehner's failure as a victory for anti-tax conservatives and a setback for Obama, just six weeks after the president won re-election on a promise to cut the deficit in part by raising taxes on incomes exceeding $250,000.
Smith said his "hat's off" to those Republicans in Congress who rejected their own leader's plan.
"Let's go over the cliff and see what's on the other side," the blacksmith said. "On the other side" are tax increases for most Americans, not just the top earners, though that point seemed lost on Smith, who added: "We have a day of reckoning coming, whether it's next week or next year. Sooner or later the chickens are coming home to roost. Let's let them roost next week."
It's not just tea party activists who want Republicans in Washington to stand firm.
In conservative states such as South Carolina and Louisiana, party leaders are encouraging members of their congressional delegations to oppose any deal that includes tax increases. Elected officials from those states have little political incentive to cooperate with the Democratic president, given that most of their constituents voted for Obama's Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.
"If it takes us going off a cliff to convince people we're in a mess, then so be it," South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly said. "We have a president who is a whiner. He has done nothing but blame President Bush. It's time to make President Obama own this economy."
In Louisiana, state GOP Chairman Roger Villere said that "people are frustrated with Speaker Boehner. They hear people run as conservatives, run against tax hikes. They want them to keep their word."
Jack Kimball, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman, said he was "elated" that conservatives thwarted Boehner. He called the looming deadline a political creation. "The Republicans really need to stand on their principles. They have to hold firm."
Conservative opposition to compromise with Obama does not reflect the view of most Americans, according to recent public opinion polls.
A CBS News survey conducted this month found that 81 percent of adults wanted Republicans in Congress to compromise in the current budget negotiations to get a deal done rather than "stick to their positions even if it means not coming to an agreement." The vast majority of Republicans and independent voters agreed.