The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, in conjunction with White House input, has passed a budget proposal that would avert the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that went into effect at 12:01 AM today. Or perhaps I should correct that—it averts the spending cuts, with the package almost exclusively focused on tax increases.
Even though I’ve advocated House Republicans being open to compromise, I’ve never suggested they be pushovers and a package this one-sided is much worse than the so-called fiscal cliff, and the House should dismiss the Senate plan for what it is—a politically-driven proposal aimed more at gaining partisan advantage than entering good-faith negotiations with the democratically elected GOP House majority (I include “democratically elected” because liberals seem to have decided that the only way the people spoke on November 6 was to re-elect President Obama and that the Republican House apparently dropped from the sky).
What possible reason is there for the House to accept this proposal? The badly needed spending cuts go into effect automatically without any action by the government. The only real difference in the tax increases is that the hike in marginal rates will apply at the $400,000 level rather than the $250,000 level. Nothing against those folks making a quarter-mil a year, but I’m not ready to give up the spending cuts to save them a few percentage points on the highest levels of their income.
This is a proposal done purely for show, so the White House and Senate can say they did something, and when their one-sided plan fails, to accuse the House of standing in the way. The political gamesmanship shows why rank-and-file House Republicans were wrong to undercut their speaker when he wanted a vote on a legitimate compromise deal. Thus, they now stand open to the label “the party of no.” The label is an intellectually vacuous term that means nothing more than “one who disagrees with the president”, but its capacity to stick is increased if the House doesn’t respond.
Ideally, it would have been nice if House Republicans and President Obama would have gotten together, acted like adults and negotiated a reasonable compromise. That hasn’t happened because neither side was interested. Obama wanted to act like he won an election for dictator rather than president. The House majority wanted to hunker down in a bunker and fight a resistance war for the next four years rather than address the national debt.
Thus, even though the House should reject this plan, they bear a fair share of the responsibility for creating the situation that led to this. Now they have to try and get to a reasonable compromise the hard way. And that way is this—since the Senate has passed a plan that’s essentially a Democratic dream, the House should counter and pass a plan that’s a Republican dream.
The process then requires both plans to go into a conference committee where negotiators from each body work out the differences between the two plans, with the compromise submitted to both the House and Senate for a vote. Which is where we should have been in the first place. It’s the long way around the mountain, but apparently no one in Washington does anything the easy way.
That’s enough talk about the so-called fiscal cliff for one day. Now I’m off to watch the Rose Bowl, and as a Wisconsin fan, I fully anticipate jumping off a cliff of a different kind by halftime. Happy New Year, everyone.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com