POLITICS
12/30/2012 11:32 am ET Updated Dec 30, 2012

Obama's Firm Fiscal Cliff Stance Had Pushed GOP In Corner, Jon Kyl Says

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said on Sunday that the only reason some Republicans had been willing to raise tax rates on income above $250,000 was that President Barack Obama had been firm in his position. Now that Obama and other Democrats are showing more flexibility, offering to set the threshold for tax increases at at least $400,000, the political calculus has changed, Kyl told ABC's "This Week."

On "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that he wouldn't support a $250,000 level because Democrats will agree to a higher threshold.

Kyl was read a comment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a top Republican who said recently that he expected $250,000 to be the agreed-upon level. "I believe we're going to pass the $250,000 and below sooner or later, and we really don't have much leverage there because those rates go up by operation of law Dec. 31. I would focus on the areas where we do have more leverage," Cornyn said.

But Kyl said that's no longer the case. "I don't think you have so many Republicans -- and the context of it was what is realistic as a deal. And the context of it was the president's adamant position that he wouldn't compromise on anything above $250,000. Let's just get back to the theory," Kyl suggested, ticking off arguments about the harm done to small businesses by a tax hike.

Graham said he won't support a "fiscal cliff" package that raises rates on income between $250,000 and $400,000 or $500,000, because he knows Democrats will cave on a higher threshold. He used the example of his fellow Fox guest, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

"No," he said when asked if he'd support the $250,000 level, "because she's willing to go for more, and why would I not find 4 or 500, because I know the votes are there for 4 or 500? But in the House, will the votes be there for 4 or 500?"

Feinstein flinched and, when pressed, put the onus back on the president, who was the first to raise the compromise level to income over $400,000. "We believe that the 250 threshold is the appropriate threshold. The president did make an offer, we understand, of 400,000, with a trillion in cuts accompanying it. That was turned down by the House," she said. "The time has come really to measure the absence of a deal against a deal. ... We have to solve this immediate situation."

Asked whether she'd accept the higher level, Feinstein was quick to answer. "I could certainly live with it," she said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking on "This Week," said he thought a deal would come together after Jan. 3, when Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is safely reelected speaker. "I am hopeful in the new year, after Speaker Boehner is elected -- reelected -- and he doesn't have to worry about those 50 [members of the Tea Party faction], that he will start working in a way like the Senate works, which is Democrats and Republicans together," said Schumer.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor that Boehner appeared more worried about holding his speakership than reaching a deal.

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