Rep. Scott Tipton will return to Washington on Sunday evening with the rest of his House colleagues as a political standoff threatens to drive the country back into recession.
Tipton signaled Thursday that he would be open to raising taxes – the major argument in the standoff – but only under narrow circumstances.
The House adjourned before Christmas after Speaker of the House John Boehner failed to get enough support among his fellow Republicans for his plan to avert the “fiscal cliff.”
Congress and President Barack Obama created the fiscal cliff, a set of tax increases and spending cuts that economists say would push the fragile economy back into recession. They reasoned the consequences would be so bad that it would force the parties to compromise on a long-term budget plan.
But now that assumption seems flawed, as Republicans refuse to accept any tax increases and Obama and Democrats are sticking to campaign pledges to raise taxes on the richest Americans.
Obama campaigned on ending the Bush tax cuts on income more than $250,000, letting the income-tax rate rise to 39.6 percent from its current 35 percent. He since has offered Republicans a deal that keeps the Bush tax cuts for incomes less than $400,000.
Boehner attempted to pass his own plan to raise taxes on incomes above $1 million, but he lacked the votes to get it through the GOP-controlled House.
Tipton said he would not have voted for it because Obama pledged to veto it, and it could not have passed the Senate.
Following Boehner’s lead, Tipton said Thursday it’s up to the Senate to act on bills the House has passed to keep all tax rates the same for another year.
“We’ve got two bills that have passed the House of Representatives to avert the fiscal crisis,” Tipton said.
If the Democratic-controlled Senate doesn’t like the bills, they should amend them and send them back to the House, he said.
“We aren’t a rubber stamp for them any more than they are a rubber stamp for us,” he said.
Tipton is against Obama’s tax plan because it would affect some small-business owners.
“We’ve completely lost the discussion nationally right now of getting Americans back to work, getting the economy moving,” he said.
Like most Republicans, Tipton has signed a pledge to the lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform to not vote for any tax increases.
But he signaled a willingness to cross that line if the tax increases didn’t hurt small-business owners and if they were used to pay down the deficit rather than spend more.
“I want to hear what the options are, rather than just reflexively say yes or no,” Tipton said.
Colorado’s Democratic senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, have stood with Obama. Although Republicans are calling on the Senate to act on a House-passed bill this week, two weeks ago Udall called on the House to act on a bill that already has passed the Senate that would end the crisis.
Boehner’s failure to get his plan past his own party was a blow to the speaker, but Tipton said it wasn’t a fatal one.
When asked if he will vote to retain Boehner as speaker in 2013, Tipton said, “He’s the only one running right now. If you put yourself in his shoes, it’s a tough job. Right now, I don’t think Boehner’s speakership is in danger.”
The House will get to work at 6:30 Sunday evening, giving the members slightly more than a day before the plunge over the fiscal cliff.