First cracks in GOP resolve on tax rates


WASHINGTON (AP) — The first cracks are developing among Republicans over whether to accept a quick deal with President Barack Obama on allowing the top two income tax rates to expire, even as an administration official said the White House was stepping up behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Conservative Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole told GOP colleagues in a private meeting Tuesday that it's better to make sure that tax cuts for the 98 percent of taxpayers who make less than $200,000 or $250,000 a year are extended than to battle it out with Obama and risk increasing taxes on everyone.

Cole's remarks are noteworthy because he's a longtime GOP loyalist and a confidant of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. They were made in a meeting of the House GOP Republican whip team, which is a sounding board for GOP leaders.

"If we don't believe taxes should go up on anybody, why can't we accept a deal that takes 98 percent out and still leaves us free to fight on the other grounds," Cole said in an interview today. "I'm not for using the American people for leverage or as a hostage."

Meanwhile, an administration official speaking on grounds of anonymity told The Associated Press that two of Obama's top negotiators on the fiscal issues will meet separately Thursday with leading lawmakers.

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