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Bloomberg’s Heidi Przybyla is reporting that a group of about 40 Republican “defectors” have joined about 40 Democrats in calling for a compromise deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. The group is circulating a letter that calls for putting “all options” — including increasing tax rates and cutting entitlement programs — on the table.
One of the petition leaders, Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho, says he could accept higher rates for married couples earning more than $500,000 a year, in exchange for an overhaul of spending on entitlements such as Medicare.
Separately, Representative Kay Granger of Texas is endorsing Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole’s call to extend all tax cuts for middle-class earners as “just the right thing to do.”
What unifies these lawmakers is a recognition that Obama’s re-election has strengthened his hand in negotiations aimed at averting more than $600 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January. The letter’s approximately 80 signers are half-Republican, half-Democratic, according to Simpson spokeswoman Nikki Watts.
For Republicans, the letter represents a significant break from the GOP House leadership’s position that any revenue increases will have to come from eliminating tax deductions and loopholes, not increasing marginal tax rates. Even that position has met resistance from more conservative Republicans, who don’t want any new revenue included in a deal.
Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) told Bloomberg that House Speaker John Boehner could get 218 votes needed to pass a tax increase on the wealthy if about 120 House Democrats agree to entitlement cuts, such as raising the eligibility age for Medicare.
UPDATE, 5:59 p.m.:
Watts, the spokesperson for Rep. Simpson, sent over a copy of the letter, which is signed by two Democratic representatives and two Republicans. The names of the other signatories are not included.
Here’s the letter:
*This post was originally published at 12:45 p.m.