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Last Men And OverMen

Saturday, December 29, 2012

President Stands Tall on Fiscal Curb; Starts “GOP Civil War’

      Or so says Charles Krauthammer:

      Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer believes President Barack Obama has used the fiscal cliff to start an “internal civil war” among House Republicans.

     “He’s been using [the fiscal cliff talks] — and I must say with great skill, and ruthless skill and success — to fracture and basically shatter the Republican opposition,” Krauthammer told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “The only redoubt of the opposition is the House. And his objective from the very beginning was to break the will of the Republicans in the House, and to create an internal civil war. And he’s done that.”

      “How did he do it? By always insisting from Day One after the election that Republicans had to raise rates,” Krauthammer said.

     I have no problem with Krauthammer’s characterization. I notice that a lot of the conservative media have been pushing this narrative over the last day. Of course, no one can exploit divisions if they don’t exist.

    Not all Republicans understand the lockstep opposition to even slightly higher tax rates for the rich. Even Bill Kristol admitted as much.

    Yesterday Obama was expected to compromise more for the sake of a deal-any deal-to avert the “fiscal cliff.” I refer to it-as some other liberals do-as the “fiscal curb” to underscore that the entire issue has been blown way out of proportion anyway and that this “cliff” is entirely self-imposed.

     However, the President didn’t offer any more compromises, I’m happy to be able to report. He has asked the Senate and House to get something done. If Mitch McConnell refuses to let it go up to a vote, the last measure will be Reid having a vote on a scaled back bill that extends the tax cuts for those making under $250,000 a year-ie, the $400,000 offer he made 2 weeks ago is rescinded-and extend unemployment benefits.

     As the President points out, there are enough votes in both chambers of Congress if the GOP leaders simply allow a vote:

     “Threading all the legislative needles now falls to Reid and McConnell, who pledged to work together to craft a package that can win significant bipartisan support.”

      “If that effort fails, Obama said, he has asked Reid to press ahead with a bare-bones bill that would keep the president’s campaign promise to raise taxes on income over $250,000 and extend emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.”

      “I believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities as long as those leaders allow it to actually come to a vote,” Obama said. “If members of the House or the Senate want to vote no, they can. But we should let everybody vote. That’s the way this is supposed to work.”

     Indeed, that’s the rub: these measures can pass as long as McConnell doesn’t filibuster and Boehner allows a vote. At this point we’re hearing that a deal may be happening after all:

     “President Obama and Senate leaders were on the verge of an agreement Friday that would let taxes rise on the wealthiest households while protecting the vast majority of Americans from historic tax hikes set to hit in January.”

     “The development marked a breakthrough after weeks of paralysis. After meeting with Obama at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said they would work through the weekend in hopes of drafting a “fiscal cliff” package they could present to their colleagues on Sunday afternoon.”

     Not to put too fine a point on it but I’ve consistently said I think there will be a deal. I never really wavered at all on this until Harry Reid expressed pessimism on Thursday. However, now it looks like it still may happen. Again, I see no upside for the GOP-other than if going over the cliff is somehow necessary for Boehner to remain speaker.

      (Of course, if you’re a believer in efficient markets as Sott Sumner is then you think predictions are all just dumb luck anyway, nothing more than being lucky in flipping a coin).

     As Krauthammer says, the House is the last line of redoubt. Still, will Boehner refuse to hold a vote on something that gets through the Senate? He’s not talking like a guy prepared to do that:

     “On Friday, Boehner offered few hints about how he will respond to the new flurry of activity. Since a humiliating House rejection last week of an alternative plan, Boehner has said it is the responsibility of the Senate to act.”

      “At the White House, according to the House Republican briefed on the meeting, Boehner repeatedly deferred to Senate leaders on policy details, saying only: “Let us know what you come up with, and we’ll consider it — accept it or amend it.”

       “By New Year’s Eve, however, there would be no time before the year-end deadline for House amendments, which would require yet another vote in the Senate. Boehner would have a choice: Go over the fiscal cliff, or bring a bill to the floor that might win the support of a majority of Democrats and only a fraction of his own Republican caucus.”

        “Rank-and-file House members, who won’t return to the Capitol until Sunday evening, were anxiously awaiting word on the developments from afar. Many had hoped for a package that would cut trillions of dollars from the federal deficit, a goal that would not be met by the stripped-down package under construction in the Senate.”

         “Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he has an “open mind” about a last-minute deal, but sounded a skeptical note that could bode trouble in the House. “Our No. 1 priority is cutting spending,” he said. “The problem is that we’re not actually solving the problem.”

         “But a retiring Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), a close friend of Boehner’s and a champion of a broad deal, said he could offer his support for a limited deal if the speaker requested it.”

         “A small-ball bill would be horribly disappointing to me,” said LaTourette, who has repeatedly said he’d be willing to raise taxes only as part of a far-reaching deficit-reduction agreement. But, he said, “I’m a Team Boehner guy, and I will support the speaker.”


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