WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) defended his heretical position on tax cuts for the wealthy Wednesday evening on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," but he also said he backed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and acknowledged that he is not, in fact, king of the universe.
"I'm one voice. I'm not king of the universe, and I support my speaker," Cole said. "I recognize he's the speaker. I support my conference."
Still, Cole did not back off his previous statements that Republicans ought to cut a deal with Democrats that would hike taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. "If we agree that taxes shouldn't go up on 98 percent of the people," Cole said on CNN, "shouldn't we take that now and get that set aside and make sure that they know their taxes aren't going up?"
But Boehner has not budged from his opposition to higher rates for the wealthy. Boehner and other top Republicans are currently negotiating with President Barack Obama on a grand bargain-type deal to avert a budget crisis.
If Congress doesn't act before the end of the year, a plethora of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes will take effect in what is known as the "fiscal cliff." The precipice includes defense spending cuts and the expiration of unemployment insurance and a payroll tax holiday, but its biggest component is arguably the expiration of income tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003.
Democrats want to keep the lower rates, but only for household incomes below $250,000. Republicans have insisted that lower rates should remain even for higher incomes, though a handful of GOP members of Congress, including Cole and several senators, have suggested they'd be more flexible.
Obama campaigned for reelection on raising the top rates, and polls have consistently shown the American public favors higher taxes on incomes above $250,000.