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Some conservatives rebel over ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

FILE - In this Feb. 9 2012 file phoRep. Jim Jordan R-Ohio chair Republican Study Committee addresses Conservative Political ActiConference

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2012 file photo, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chair of the Republican Study Committee addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a veteran House conservative leader, took a more measured tone but said he would vote against a compromise raising tax rates. “Tax increases are not conducive to growing economies and creating jobs,” Jordan said last week. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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WASHINGTON — Some conservative House Republicans are making life difficult for Speaker John Boehner as he reaches for a “fiscal cliff” pact with President Barack Obama, insisting they will oppose a deal that increases taxes. Others, however, are giving him room to negotiate, hoping he produces something they can support.

With the clock ticking down on the bargaining, the “fiscal cliff” — sweeping tax increases and budget cuts that begin in January unless an accord is reached to avert them — is testing conservatives’ unity and their leverage.

A year after wielding considerable clout in repeated budget clashes against the White House, two factors have weakened conservatives trying to prevent a GOP agreement with Obama that they don’t like:

— Republican Election Day losses of the White House as well as seats in the House and Senate following a campaign in which Obama pressed hard for tax boosts on the wealthiest Americans.

— Polls showing that voters would largely blame Republicans should a stalemate with the president trigger the cliff’s tax boosts and spending cuts.

In a significant movement toward Obama’s insistence on higher tax rates, Boehner is now willing to let them rise on the 368,000 households with annual incomes above $1 million as part of package that would swell the government’s revenues by $1 trillion over the next decade.

Yet even with GOP pragmatists saying it’s time to agree to Obama’s demands for higher tax rates for the rich, some conservatives want Boehner to reject any tax increases at all.

“If there’s any blame to be placed, it’s squarely on his shoulders,” Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., said recently about Boehner, referring to House-approved spending levels and deficits of the past two years.

Landry, who lost his re-election bid, is a member of the tea party-backed House GOP freshman class of 2010. Saying he would oppose any deal raising income tax rates, Landry said of the government: “I’m not giving this beast any more money to grow.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a veteran House conservative leader, took a more measured tone but said he would vote against a compromise raising tax rates. “Tax increases are not conducive to growing economies and creating jobs,” he said.

Yet still other conservatives, while opposing tax increases, are doing little to hold Boehner’s feet to the fire on the issue. They acknowledge they’ve been weakened by the “fiscal cliff” itself since taxes for nearly all taxpayers automatically rise Jan. 1 if the two sides fail to reach an agreement.

“We don’t see how we have a whole lot of leverage,” said freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas.

“Speaker Boehner needs room to negotiate,” said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., another freshman. “I think he knows that I and the others are not in favor of tax-rate increases. But the speaker is going to do what he believes is in the best interest of the conference,” he said, meaning House Republicans, “and knowing he has to get the votes.”

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Associated Press writer Philip Elliott contributed to this report.



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