December 24, 2012

Anti-tax conservatives willing to go off the 'cliff'

But failure to compromise reinforces an extremist image, others argue.

By STEVE PEOPLES The Associated Press

BOSTON - In the city where a protest over tax policy sparked a revolution, modern day tea party activists are cheering the recent Republican revolt in Washington that embarrassed House Speaker John Boehner and pushed the country closer to a so-called "fiscal cliff" that forces tax increases and massive spending cuts on virtually every American.

"I want conservatives to stay strong," said Christine Morabito, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party. "Sometimes things have to get a lot worse before they get better."

Anti-tax conservatives from every corner of the nation echo her sentiment.

In more than a dozen interviews with The Associated Press, activists said they would rather fall off the cliff than agree to a compromise that includes tax increases for any Americans, no matter how high their income. They dismiss economists' warnings that the automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1 could trigger a fresh recession, and they overlook the fact that most people would see their taxes increase if President Obama and Boehner, R-Ohio, fail to reach a year-end agreement.

The strong opposition among tea party activists and Republican leaders from New Hampshire to Wyoming and South Carolina highlights divisions within the GOP as well as the challenge that Obama and Boehner face in trying to get a deal done.

On Capitol Hill, some Republicans worry about the practical and political implications should the GOP block a compromise designed to avoid tax increases for most Americans and cut the nation's deficit.

"It weakens the entire Republican Party, the Republican majority," Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, said Thursday night shortly after rank-and-file Republicans rejected Boehner's "Plan B" -- a measure that would have prevented tax increases on all Americans but million-dollar earners.

"I mean it's the continuing dumbing down of the Republican Party and we are going to be seen more and more as a bunch of extremists that can't even get a majority of our own people to support policies that we're putting forward," LaTourette said. "If you're not a governing majority, you're not going to be a majority very long."

It's not just tea party activists who want Republicans in Washington to stand firm.

In conservative states such as South Carolina and Louisiana, party leaders are encouraging members of their congressional delegations to oppose any deal that includes tax increases. Elected officials from those states have little political incentive to cooperate with the Democratic president.

"If it takes us going off a cliff to convince people we're in a mess, then so be it," South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly said. "We have a president who is a whiner. He has done nothing but blame President Bush. It's time to make President Obama own this economy."

 

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