So, we're less than a month away from Fiscal Cliff Part Deux, and this is the GOP opening gambit:
There’s no way in the world House Republicans would agree to raise any new revenue in order to avoid the upcoming automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, a senior GOP lawmaker said Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m all against raising any additional revenue on this. Look, these are written into law,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, told TPM between votes. Cole said there are other, preferable ways to make the sequester cuts that he is open to, but new revenue will not be part of the equation.
“We just had additional revenue for the federal government, so I don’t see any way in the world the sequester won’t happen either as written or renegotiated or reallocated cuts. But I don’t see any revenue coming in the picture.”
Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Caucus has countered with this plan:
Ten members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, led by Co-Chairs Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), introduced The Balancing Act this afternoon, which cancels the across the board “sequester” budget cuts, achieves a fair and balanced approach to long-term deficit reduction and creates 1 million jobs all over the country. Since 2011, budget deals in Washington have let wealthy corporations and the Pentagon off the hook while cutting more than $1.7 trillion from programs America’s working families need to survive. The Balancing Act brings relief to working Americans by making sure the Pentagon and the nation’s biggest corporations pitch in and do their part to get our economy working again.Now, the fact of the matter is that the Progressive Caucus plan, as commonsense as it is, has no hope of getting even a hearing in the pathology which passes for the House of Representatives. But here's the thing: the GOP's intransigent demand of no new revenue has the same chance of reaching the President's desk, which is nil. If there's one thing that Obama and the Senate Democrats have hammered at over and over since the election is that any plan which is put forth to reduce the deficit has to be one that is balanced, and one which is geared towards investment in creating jobs, which is the one sure-fire way to reduce the deficit and repay the debt. John Boehner and company can hold their breath until they're blue; that will only result in a trip to the ER, made possible by Obamacare.
“Almost $2 trillion has been cut over the past two years from teachers, firefighters, police officers, loans for college students, and infrastructure investments,” Rep. Ellison said. “The American people shouldn’t continue to pay the price for massive tax breaks for millionaires and billions of dollars in subsidies to oil companies.”“If one-to-one is really our goal, why don’t we make the entire budget and investment process one-to-one instead of restricting it to this current round?” Rep. Grijalva said. “We’ve cut non-defense budgets to the bone. There are simply no major savings hiding in school lunch or nurse training programs. We need investments. The Beltway refusal to make job creation our number one priority is a scandal, and the Balancing Act is the right way to fix it.”
Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office came out with another report today which makes Tea Party members of the House cast it the side eye:
For the first time in five years, the government is projected to have a deficit below $1 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office reported on Tuesday....Let's repeat the final point in the quote: the fragile economic recovery depends on what Congress does in the coming months vis a vis the second fiscal cliff. If it manages to come to an agreement to avoid the draconian cuts, then the economy will continue to recover; if not, all predictions are off.
As for the broader economy, the office has sharply improved its outlook. In August 2012, the CBO predicted that the U.S. economy would shrink by 0.5 percent in 2013, with unemployment hitting 9.1 percent at the end of the year. Now, the office projects growth of 1.4 percent this year, with unemployment at 8.0 percent at the end of the year....
Still, all of these estimates are contingent upon what Congress does in the coming months. The sharply positive revisions are due in large part to Congress veering away from the so-called "fiscal cliff"—stopping tax hikes for most Americans and putting off until March across-the-board budget cuts totalling $1.2 trillion over 10 years....
Today, President Obama laid down another marker to the House GOP: if you can't come to an agreement on a longer-term budget, at least punt the sequester down the road again.
But Boehner and company have very little room for maneuver. The outbreak of the Republican Civil War is on the horizon. Sides have been drawn, where even Karl Rove is now fighting against the Tea Party he helped create. The GOP leadership and its paymasters created the zombie virus, and, as is often the case in any good horror movie, quickly lost control of it. Today, a poll puts Tea Party darling Steve King as the leading candidate in the GOP primary to replace retiring Tom Harkin in Iowa. The Tea Party is not going to quietly retire to its corner. It will continue to choose unelectable candidates for national office, and will primary anyone not towing the teabagger line. I was rather surprised that so many Republicans voted for the temporary credit limit raise; but it won't happen again.
But if the GOP leadership is hemmed in from the Right, it's even more constrained when looking at public opinion. From gun control to taxes to economic growth, it is not trusted to handle any matters of national import. President Obama is seen as being the conciliator, while the Republican leadership is seen as obstructing any meaningful legislation. If the Senate GOP seems to be more accommodating since the Inauguration, it's only because senators aren't gerrymandered into safe seats. They know that what washes in a carefully drawn district won't win them a statewide race. So Boehner et al are facing pressures from "the base", general public opinion, and their scared colleagues from the other chamber.
Of course we can't predict the particular outcome of the coming game of chicken. But one thing that's obvious is that it won't turn out well for the Speaker, as he will most likely have to turn to help from Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden to keep the country from imploding, while his "friends" sharpen their knives. His caucus yearns for austerity on the level of Europe; the shame for Boehner is that no one else in the country does, and the 2014 midterms are closer than anyone thinks. Austerity warms the heart of the Tea Party caucus which wants to punish "the takers" in our society; but at least on this point, most Americans really don't want to be like Europe.
Boehner will find that, just as with the debt ceiling and tax raises on the rich, he really has no freedom of movement. "Sequestration now, sequestration forever" may be the rallying cry that stirs the Tea Party; but it won't be what finally happens.