With President Obama insisting on higher tax rates for affluent Americans and winning public support for the idea, Congressional Republicans find themselves in an increasingly difficult political spot and are quietly beginning to look for a way out.
Senior Republican leadership aides say they are contemplating a fallback position since a standoff over expiring tax rates will be portrayed by Democrats as evidence that the opposition is willing to allow taxes to rise on the middle class to keep taxes from rising on the rich — and their intransigence could mean taxes go up on rich, poor and middle class alike.
The leadership officials now say that if no deal can be struck to avert the automatic expiration of all the Bush-era tax cuts and the onset of deep, across-the-board spending cuts, they could foresee taking up and passing legislation this month to extend the tax cuts for the middle class and then resume the bitter fight over spending and taxes as the nation approaches the next hard deadline: its statutory borrowing limit, which could be reached in late January or February.
"There's always better ground, but you have to get there," said Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas, who made it clear he does not support allowing any taxes to rise.
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