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Haley Barbour On Taxes: I'd Raise The Top Rates In Exchange For Reform

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WASHINGTON -- Former Gov. Haley Barbour, in an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday morning, became the latest Republican to say he'd live with raising the tax rates on top income brackets as part of a broad fiscal cliff deal.

"[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, if we, look, we've got to control defense spending, we've got to control other discretionary, non-defense spending," said the Mississippi Republican, who remains, very much, a top figure in the party. "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, going to hurt the economy, I would hold my nose to get the other done. What I wouldn't do is vote for that and do nothing else."

This is roughly the same point made last week by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who argued that, as part of a deal, he'd be okay with tax rates going up on the wealthy so that lawmakers could then do comprehensive tax reform by closing loopholes and capping deductions.

Barbour, like Coburn, is demanding steep entitlement reforms in return. And with respect to those being part of any White House deal, the devil will be in the details. Would raising Medicare's eligibility age, for instance, be sufficient enough a compromise?

Still, Barbour's comments are another indication that knee-jerk Republican opposition to raising tax rates is fading, and not just among the party's moderate members.

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