G.O.P. Rep. Cole Advocates Major Shift In Negotiating Tactics

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole argued for House Republicans to pass a tax cut for 98% of income earners, in defiance of the G.O.P. line of holding out for the top 2%.

Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Republican by anyone’s standards, has come out in favor of the House passing a tax cut for 98% of Americans. House Republicans are holding out for a deal that would give the same cut to the top 2% as well, and Cole would prefer that, but he  believes that passing the 98% cut would give Republicans leverage in negotiations down the road. Whether the GOP takes Cole’s advice remains to be seen, but the fact that he gave it signals a seismic shift in how Obama and Republicans are interacting.

Obama’s main negotiating tactic in his first term (which we are still technically in) was to give. He offered concessions to Republicans before anyone asked for them, hoping this would engender an atmosphere of compromise and deal-making. The Republican strategy was to take, and to never give. The senate blocked and delayed judicial nominees and cabinet appointees, and used the  filibuster to make it difficult to get anything done. The House, after Republicans took it over in 2010, refused to give an inch, especially over anything related to increasing taxes.

Now, for the first time in a long time, at least a few Republicans are looking to give on taxes.

“I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now,” said Cole. “It doesn’t mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don’t.” Cole believes that if Democrats are pushing to maintain the Bush tax cuts for 98% of income earners, and Republicans are holding out for the top 2%, then Democrats will have public opinion on their side, and the stronger bargaining position. “Some people think that’s our leverage in the debate. It’s the Democrats’ leverage in the debate,” Cole added.

Cole claims to have the support of “a lot” of Republicans, but Speaker of the House John Boehner is not among them. In his statement, Boehner ignored the fact that Cole is making a tactical, not a policy recommendation.

"I told Tom earlier in our conference meeting that I disagreed with him….The goal here is to grow the economy and control spending. You're not going to grow the economy if you raise tax rates on the top two [percent]. It'll hurt small businesses; it'll hurt our economy."

Though Cole is still advocating for the same Republican agenda of maintaining the Bush tax cuts (which skew toward the rich) for all Americans, his statement is a shift in tactics, which may signal a broader shift as we move into the second term. One can hope anyway.

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