WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Members of the N.C. congressional delegation say theyre ready to compromise on some hardened positions to reach a deal that would prevent the country from plunging over the fiscal cliff.
Failing to reach an agreement by the end of the year would trigger tax hikes and massive cuts in spending on federal programs.
N.C. Rep. Howard Coble is the latest Republican who says hes willing to buck one of the partys sacrosanct pledges to not raise taxes.
For over two decades, conservative activist Grover Norquist has been getting GOP members of Congress to sign his Americas for Tax Reform pledge. It puts them on record as opposing any tax increases. That includes eliminating deductions.
Im not enthusiastic about it (the possibility of a tax increase), says Coble, a longtime congressman from Greensboro who signed the pledge around 1986 during his second term. But I dont think anything should be off the table. Just because I advocate for that, I may or may not vote for it. But that would depend on what is finally handed to us.
Coble joins Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga, and Rep. Peter King, R-NY, who have all said theyre willing to accept new ways to increase tax revenues in order to help prevent the fiscal crisis.
Democrats like Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte and G.K. Butterfield of Wilson said theyre open to reforming entitlements, including limiting Medicare benefits for wealthy Americans.
Seniors try to make you think that you will never change anything about Medicare, Watt said. I just think in order to save the program for middle income and poor people you might have to make substantial concessions.
Interviews with eight of the 15 Republican and Democratic members of the N.C. congressional delegation indicate that they are willing to negotiate on taxes and entitlement programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But they acknowledge negotiations will not be easy with politicians striving to maintain their favored federal programs or tax cuts.
Going over the fiscal cliff could have devastating impacts. An N.C. family of four earning the states median income of $63,700 could see its income taxes rise $2,200, according to the White House. The Presidents Council of Economic Advisers estimates that consumers in North Carolina would likely spend nearly $5.8 billion less in 2013.
Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, said the problems have been studied multiple times, but now Democrats and Republicans must demonstrate the will to come to an agreement.
If we dont act, every single family is going to see a tax increase and we have to prevent that, Hagan said. The automatic cuts to the Defense Department alone would have devastating impacts on the states large military presence, she said.
Other members like retiring Democratic Rep. Brad Miller of Raleigh question whether a compromise can be reached by the end of the year. He questioned the Republicans willingness to reform taxes and doubts Republican House leadership can convince the more hard-line tea party wing to accept any form of legitimate tax reform.
Every current Republican member of the N.C. delegation has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, including newcomers Reps.-elect Richard Hudson of Concord, Robert Pittenger of Charlotte, George Holding of Raleigh and Mark Meadows of Jackson County.