January 2 2013
Fiscal Cliff Avoided...For Now
The House Republicans swallowed hard and then enough of them voted for the McConnell-Biden brokered deal to avert our going over the so-called fiscal cliff.
The House Republicans went 85 for and 151 against the deal.
The House vote as a whole was 257 to 167 and now the flawed bill goes to President Obama. The Washington Post reports:
House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and most other top GOP leaders took no public position on the measure and offered no public comment before the 10:45 p.m. vote. Boehner declined even to deliver his usual closing argument, leaving House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) to defend the measure as the “largest tax cut in American history.”
The bill will indeed shield millions of middle-class taxpayers from tax increases set to take effect this month. But it also will let rates rise on wages and investment profits for households pulling in more than $450,000 a year, marking the first time in more than two decades that a broad tax increase has been approved with GOP support.
The measure also will keep benefits flowing to 2 million unemployed workers on the verge of losing their federal checks. And it will delay for two months automatic cuts to the Pentagon and other agencies that had been set to take effect Wednesday.
Instead of commenting on the legislation, which I have not had time to read, I want to talk about something else germane—which side behaved as if they care about the future of the republic and the people who live in this republic.
The Tea Party members of the GOP caucus are derided by the left as destructive to the democratic process and not ready for prime time. But they did not block this deal. It was a “bitter pill” for them, but they weighed the situation and made a decision. For example, Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania didn’t like the rushed process and didn’t want to vote for a bill that hadn’t been thoroughly read and digested.
But in the end, Barletta voted for the bill. He had heard that Senate leaders were saying they wouldn’t vote on an amended House bill. The Senate had left the House with little choice: Accept this path to avert the cliff, or there would be no other.
“I’m not willing at this point to risk tax hikes to all Americans not knowing what the Senate will do,” he said. “We will have that fight over spending. No question.”
By contrast, President Obama held a bizarre and gloat-filled press conference in the final hours of negotiation.
While most of the nation was worried about the negotiations, President Obama bounced on stage like a rock star. He was buoyant. He flashed one of his big smiles. No worry about the republic from this fellow! He was surrounded by members of “middle class families,” who applauded him uproariously, apparently blissfully unaware of being nothing more than human props for the president in his quest for a pointless tax hike on the rich.
The president was pretending such tax hikes on the rich are good for the middle class (again, let me state how much I hate the balkanization of American citizens into classes). But of course the opposite is likely true. The hikes so beloved of President Obama may actually harm the economy’s ability to produce jobs (NB: Jobs are very important to the middle class.) Unless one assumes that the middle class is eaten up with envy and desires nothing more than punitive measures against those who have been successful, these taxes are meaningless and counterproductive.
Still, the president was able to win the argument with many members of the middle class by, in effect, taking the middle class hostage. It was the GOP, including the much maligned Tea Party, that, in the end, and not without pain, said, “We can’t let taxes go up on ordinary taxpayers.” It was the Lou Barlettas, not the Barack Obamas, who were motivated by concern for the middle class.
The GOP has got to start talking about the president’s middle class ruse. Conservative pundits do it all the time, but it’s time for leaders on Capitol Hill to acknowledge this truth, and damned the coverage.
They will have plenty of opportunities. Robert Costa notes that “our long national nightmare is over—for two months.” That is roughly when the debt ceiling negotiations come into play. The GOP has got to begin to view this as an opportunity to make its points and talk frankly about the goals of this administration.
By the way, I thought the breakdown of the GOP vote said somethhing important: We don't like this deal but we're going to do what it takes to make as many tax cuts as possible permanent. On the other hand, the GOP holdouts served an admirable purpose too.