Leaving the door ajar

Rep. Scott Rigell (R) held an interesting event in his Virginia Beach district the other day, hosting a town-hall meeting with three of his fellow Republican colleagues: Reps. Larry Bucshon (Ind.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), and Phil Roe (Tenn.). For those unfamiliar with the line-up or the area, these were four far-right members speaking in a very conservative area. (Virginia Beach is home to radical TV preacher Pat Robertson and his CBN empire, for example).

Apparently, during the town-hall discussion, the audience wanted to know whether any of these four lawmakers could accept any proposal to boost government revenues. They didn’t dismiss the idea out of hand.

Of the four, three gave specific examples that they could possibly acquiesce to. Mr. Rigell … said he thought that at least a few forms of tax subsidies provided to oil companies should be on the table. Government should not subsidize one industry over another, Mr. Rigell said.

Mr. Gingrey said he found the question “difficult” and suggested that he had been struggling with the answer himself. Raising the rates on those earning $250,000 a year – a category of beneficiaries under the Bush tax cuts that some Democrats have suggested be taxed more — was a no-go for him, but for those earning over $700,000, he said, “I’m not really sure.” […]

Mr. Roe said that he would support closing certain legal loopholes that corporations take advantage of. “G.E. ought to pay some taxes,” he said, referring to General Electric, which has taken advantage of various loopholes in the tax system.

Oddly enough, this is actually mildly encouraging. The standard response to these questions is, of course, “We don’t have a revenue problem.” It’s wrong, but it’s the line the GOP sticks to, and it’s generally intended to end the conversation.

But in this case, that’s apparently not quite the script these four stuck to, at least on Tuesday night. The fact that Gingrey didn’t immediately rule out tax increases on those earning over $700,000 almost starts to resemble progress.

To be sure, part of the problem here is that members aren’t afraid to lie. House Speaker John Boehner was recently pressed on national television about billions of dollars in tax subsidies to the oil industry, and he said he’s open to eliminating them. Soon after, Boehner admitted he didn’t mean what he said, arguing he felt justified lying because he considered the question a “trap.”

In other words, House Republicans don’t always mind saying things about taxes and revenue that aren’t true.

But if these four far-right House members, speaking in a conservative area, left the door ajar to new revenues, I’ll accept it with cautious optimism.