Republican Rep. Tom Cole urged colleagues in a private session Tuesday to vote to extend the Bush tax rates for all but the highest earners before the end of the year — and to battle over the rest later.
The Oklahoma Republican said in an interview with KTUL.com's Washington-based sister website POLITICO that he believes such a vote would not violate Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge and that he's not alone within Republican circles.
At a meeting of the House GOP whip team earlier in the day, he made the case that Republicans would strengthen their position by joining hands with President Barack Obama now to give most taxpayers what he calls "an early Christmas present" of ensuring their taxes don't go up on Jan. 1.
Cole's position is striking because he's hardly a "squish" — Norquist's term for a weak-kneed lawmaker — when it comes to Republican orthodoxy. Cole served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee and in other official posts within the party.
He might also provide cover for other Republicans looking to make an agreement to avoid a sharp fall off the so-called fiscal cliff.
"I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now," he said of freezing income tax rates for all but the top 2 percent of earners. "It doesn't mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don't."