Anti-tax conservatives: Bring on 'fiscal cliff'

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BOSTON -- In the city where a protest over tax policy sparked a revolution, modern day tea party activists are cheering the recent Republican revolt in Washington that embarrassed House Speaker John Boehner and pushed the country closer to a "fiscal cliff" that forces tax increases and massive spending cuts on virtually every American.

"I want conservatives to stay strong," said Christine Morabito, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party. "Sometimes things have to get a lot worse before they get better."

Anti-tax conservatives from every corner of the nation echo her sentiment.

In more than a dozen interviews with The Associated Press, activists said they would rather fall off the cliff than agree to a compromise that includes tax hikes for any Americans, no matter how high their income. They dismiss economists' warnings that the automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1 could trigger a fresh recession, and they overlook the fact that most people would see their taxes increase if President Barack Obama and Boehner (R-Ohio), fail to reach a year-end agreement.

The strong opposition among tea party activists and Republican leaders from New Hampshire to Wyoming highlights divisions within the GOP as well as the challenge that Obama and Boehner face in trying to get a deal done.

On Capitol Hill, some Republicans worry about the practical and political implications should the GOP block a compromise designed to avoid tax increases for most Americans and cut the nation's deficit.

"It weakens the entire Republican Party, the Republican majority," Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said Thursday shortly after rank-and-file Republicans rejected Boehner's "Plan B" -- a measure that would have prevented tax increases on all Americans but million-dollar earners.

It's a concern that does not seem to resonate with conservatives such as tea party activist Frank Smith of Cheyenne, Wyo. He cheered Boehner's failure as a victory for anti-tax conservatives and a setback for Obama, just six weeks after the president won re-election on a promise to cut the deficit in part by raising taxes on incomes exceeding $250,000.

Smith said his "hat's off" to those Republicans in Congress who rejected their own leader's plan. "Let's go over the cliff and see what's on the other side," the blacksmith said.

"On the other side" are tax increases for most Americans, not just the top earners.

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It's not just tea party activists who want Republicans in Washington to stand firm.

In conservative states such as South Carolina, party leaders are encouraging members of their congressional delegations to oppose any deal that includes tax increases. "If it takes us going off a cliff to convince people we're in a mess, then so be it," South Carolina GOP chairman Chad Connelly said.

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