WASHINGTON U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday dismissed suggestions that Republicans were warming to raising revenue as a part of a plan to cut the deficit, adding that tax hikes on millionaires would cost jobs.
The top Republican in Congress blasted a proposal from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to raise taxes only on those earning more than $1 million, saying it would hurt too many small business owners, who hire the most U.S. workers.
"I believe that raising taxes at this point in our recovery is a big mistake," Boehner told reporters. "At a time when we're trying to help small businesses create jobs, this proposal would kill jobs."
Boehner's comments came after some Senate Republicans recently indicated they might be willing to change some key parts of U.S. tax law to eliminate some exemptions, credits and deductions as a part of broad tax reforms that would allow income tax rates to be lowered while shrinking federal deficits.
In a sign of potential progress, a bipartisan group of 47 senators and as many House members are working with the leaders of a 2010 fiscal commission - former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and Democratic ex-White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles - on a plan to solve U.S. fiscal problems [ID:nL1E8GR09O].
The commission's recommendations to shrink deficits through tax hikes and spending cuts were not adopted, but still serve as a model for some in Congress who favor a more pragmatic approach to deficit reduction.
A so-called "grand bargain" on taxes, deficit- and debt- reduction is not likely until after the November 6 election, but both parties are trying to lay the groundwork for legislation to deal with the expiring tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush.
In April, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was overheard saying at a private fundraiser that he might seek to limit tax deductions for mortgages as a revenue-raising measure and reduce tax credits as part of a plan to slash U.S. tax rates by 20 percent.
Aides later said Romney was simply throwing out ideas, not outlining policy.
In the Republican-controlled House, where fiscal conservatives aligned with the Tea Party movement have held sway, any plan to bring in more tax revenue is expected to be extremely difficult to pass. Nearly all House Republicans have signed a pledge promoted by influential conservative activist Grover Norquist to reject tax increases.
Boehner told reporters that the House, in June, would vote to extend current tax rates into next year, bringing certainty to the tax code for businesses reluctant hire workers for fear of their tax bills rising.
The move is intended avoid a spike in rates that would hurt economic growth and to buy time for Congress to craft a broader tax reform plan, but it is likely to stall in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Meanwhile, Pelosi continued to push on Thursday for her plan to raise taxes on millionaires, which caused a stir last week because it represented a retreat from Democrats' longstanding position of raising taxes on those making more than $250,000.
"I urge the Speaker to bring a middle income tax cut to the floor of the House. Put on the table whatever you want to put on the table. Let's have that debate," Pelosi told reporters.
Reiterating a key campaign theme of President Barack Obama's Democrats, Pelosi said Republicans will show voters that they will go "to any length to protect the wealthiest people in America at the expense of the middle class."
More revenues are needed to shrink deficits, she added. "Everybody has to pay his or her fair share."
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Jackie Frank)