Tom Cole Open To Raising Revenue As Part Of Budget Deal

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, one of the key Republican negotiators on a possible budget deal, said Friday that he would support raising revenue and more of his colleagues need to be open to the idea.

"I think both sides would like to deal with the sequester. And we're willing to put more revenue on the table to do that, and we would like to do it with entitlement savings," Cole said on Bloomberg TV's "Political Capital with Al Hunt," adding the GOP was more focused on "pro-growth revenue" as opposed to tax increases.

Cole acknowledged that many of his colleagues have declared any new revenue off the table, but pointed out that in order to get to a deal, both sides would have to give a little.

"Yeah, there are some that feel that way. But, you know, the reality is, you're going to have to have a deal here," he said, when asked about the many Republicans who disagree with his position. "And a deal means everybody gives something up. Now, again, we're much more into what I'd call pro-growth revenue."

Cole is part of the 29-member negotiating committee tasked with reconciling the vastly different Senate and House budgets as part of last week's deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit. The legislation set a deadline of Dec. 13 for conferees to reach an agreement on a long-term framework for tax and spending policies.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sought to manage expectations Thursday, focusing the discussion more narrowly on replacing sequestration, the automated budget cuts that took effect in March.

Ryan flatly ruled out tax revenue increases as part of talks, pointing to the tax hike enacted by Congress in January's fiscal-cliff deal. "If people see this conference as an excuse to raise taxes, I don't think it's going to be successful," the former GOP vice presidential nominee told Reuters.

Ryan emphasized the need for Democrats to give in on entitlement reforms -- including changes to Medicare and Social Security -- as a "smarter" way to turn off sequestration. If Democrats didn't agree, Ryan said the fallback position for Republicans would be to maintain the across-the-board spending cuts.

Cole was more keen to replace the sequester, particularly the defense cuts. But he conceded Republicans were unlikely to break if Democrats lay out a condition that they raise tax rates.

"If we're pushed, if it's -- you've got to raise tax rates or something, then, you know, it's pretty easy for Republicans to hold that lower number," Cole said. "They demonstrated from January to March, when the president tried to break them on sequester, that they weren't going to break."

Two leading Democrats on the budget panel, Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), have said their party won't consider entitlement reform or cuts to domestic programs if Republicans refuse to raise revenues by closing tax loopholes.

Both Murray and Van Hollen participated in a conference call Friday with President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to discuss the pending negotiations. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the call was made to reiterate their focus on the middle class and job creation, and that a similar call was not made to Republicans, according to a pool report.

Despite their differences, Cole was optimistic both sides can get to a deal.

"I think so. I think so. I really do," he said, when asked if the odds were greater than 50 percent. "Look, I think the worst thing to do would be another long-term continuing resolution. I mean, that's just a bad way to govern."

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