The truth is that, if the tax cuts expire, we do not suddenly fall into the ocean. In fact, it is worth noting we had some of the longest peace time economic expansion with those tax rates in place. It is far from the ideal time to raise taxes, but if that’s where we head, the Republicans will largely have only themselves to blame for it.
The fact is that Speaker of the House John Boehner proposed an option that was never viable, that in the end not only could he never have sold to Democrats, he could not even sell it to his own party.
That the vaunted Plan B was dead before arrival was not the surprise nor the shock, the surprise and the shock is that, by the end of the day, Speaker Boehner could not blame the Democrats for failing to act on the legislation.
“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement.
He then put the onus on President Obama and Senate Leader Harry Reid.
He said, “Now it is up to the President to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.”
The problem is that, if Speaker Boehner could not deliver the votes in the House, how is the President expected to?
Some of my conservative friends have told me they are forced to agree. Others suggested that President Obama has shown his lack of leadership again. Where is his plan that can pass the House and Senate?
The problem is, how does one reasonably expect the President to achieve what the Speaker could not? Do they expect that Democrats will move to the right of the Speaker’s proposal – one that they could never have supported to begin with?
Moreover, frankly, they do not have to. Public opinion polls show that the country supports the President on the issue of raising taxes on those over $250,000. It shows the President at his highest approval ratings since the death of Bin Laden.
The Speaker countered the President’s proposal for raising the taxes on those with incomes over $250,000 with a plan that would have allowed income tax rates to rise on incomes over $1 million. That proposal was not acceptable to the White House nor legislative Democrats, and yet a core of House Republicans refused to support even that proposal.
Public opinion polls have consistently indicated that the voters blame Republicans for a failure to reach a deficit deal. That was before this latest debacle, that paints the Republicans into a corner that they might not be able to emerge from.
Now Democrats question Speaker Boehner’s ability to deliver any agreement.
“I think this demonstrates that Speaker Boehner has a real challenge,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat. “He hasn’t been able to cut any deal, make any agreement that’s balanced. Even if it’s his own compromise.”
As the New York Times explains this morning, “The point of the Boehner effort was to secure passage of a Republican plan, then demand that the President and the Senate take up that measure and pass it, putting off the major fights until early next year when Republicans would conceivably have more leverage because of the need to increase the federal debt limit. It would also allow Republicans to claim it was Democrats who had caused taxes to rise after the first of the year, had no agreement been reached.”
The Times noted, “That strategy lay in tatters after the Republican implosion… Opponents said they were not about to bend their uncompromising principles on taxes just because Mr. Boehner asked.”
The question now is whether this is the end of Speaker Boehner. We know in a parliamentary system this failure would result in a no confidence vote. The vote is next month for the speaker leadership and it seems that the Speaker has lost the ability to lead his own troops.
Unfortunately, the failure to garner enough Republicans might signal that no deal is possible. However, the Speaker has one other option, and that is to cut a deal with the White House that can gain enough House Republican votes to pass it through the House and even Senate Republican votes to get it through the Senate.
It’s a tough task and it might cost the Speaker his job. Then again, his job is in peril as it is. Perhaps saving the country is more important. What is clear is that the only way to avert the crisis is to find a position that can attract both Democrats and the few pragmatic or moderate Republicans remaining.
—David M. Greenwald reporting