Please Proceed, Mr. Speaker.

Boehner-cryingSo, John Boehner's "Plan B" just crashed and burned. Plan B, which would only extend the Bush tax cuts to everyone making up to $1 million (meaning that it would increase taxes on the middle class and the poor by ending the expanded child tax credit, tuition tax credit, earned income tax credit, etc.). Responding to the humiliation and acknowledging that he did not have enough votes in his caucus to pass this tax-the-poor plan, John Boehner gave up:
“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass,” Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement. “Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.”
Translation: Mr. President, please rescue me! Save my face, please, Sir! But if you think Democrats and the president are done humiliating Boehner yet, you're wrong. Sen. Reid responded within minutes.
Senate Democratic leaders said Mr. Boehner should put to a vote a Senate-passed bill that would allow tax rates to expire on incomes over $250,000 while extending a variety of middle-class tax cuts not included in the House bill.

“Until Republicans take up our bill, there’s nothing to discuss,” Mr. Reid said. “It’s time for Republicans to get serious.”
I want to know which of us who have been following this president's moves closely did not know this was coming. I bet I can't find a single person. We knew. The Speaker went into negotiate with the president, wearing his big boy pants. The president gave the speaker a reasonable offer to begin with, and then with counteroffers, offered up a deal that the Speaker should have jumped at:
  • A compromise on the higher taxes on the rich: The president, as his counteroffer, has asked for tax rates to go up for at least those making more than $400,000, in response to Speaker Boehner's offer of letting the rates go up on incomes over $1 million. The proposal would also cap the value of itemized deductions to 28%, basically preventing the rich from taking a greater percent of their incomes in deductions than middle class families. This, along with the president's proposal to raise capital gains and dividend rates, as well as increasing the estate tax, should bring us pretty close to $1.2 trillion.
  • Entitlement reform: No changes to Medicare benefits, and an adjustment to use a "chained CPI" method of calculating Social Security cost of living adjustments for most people, saving some $125 billion in the program.
  • Extended unemployment benefits and refundable tax credits for the poor and the middle class.
  • Infrastructure investment.
  • A two-year extension in the debt limit, avoiding another hostage crisis in a couple of months.
Of course, John Boehner, bad as he is at his job, walked away from it. He walked away from an opportunity to take a compromise on who gets the tax increases, a big opportunity to finally do something about entitlement reform that Republicans have been crowing about, and a chance to strike a deal that could have put him and his party once again back in the adult view in the opinion of the American people. But no, he rejected it.

And so, the President said, proverbially, Please proceed, Mr. Speaker. 

So John Boehner did. And then it just all blew up in his face. I would say Operation Rope-a-dope is reaching endgame status. Today's debacle means something. It means that the Speaker is incapable of passing a deal - any deal - to avert the fiscal cliff with only Republican support in the House. That means he has now proven to everyone (though one suspects he knew previously) that he is going to need Democratic votes to pass a deal, and probably the majority of the votes to pass such a deal are going to have to be Democratic ones.

One can be forgiven for feeling sorry for the Speaker (though I am not in such a group). If he now brings the president's proposal to a vote, it will pass, but it will rob him of the chance to claim victory, and it will get a ton of Republicans mad at him. If he does not bring either that plan or the Senate passed tax bill to the floor, the American people are going to tear up Congressional phone lines. Either way, Boehner loses. He close off his own escape.

Here's a little news, Mr. Speaker. The president won. He won the election, he won the tax debate, and he just humiliated you, badly. Put the president's plan up for a vote. Take some hits from your party, and work with Democrats next year to pass comprehensive tax reform, education reform, immigration reform, and spending reform. Those of us who think that you are too much a dope to know your own good - if not political then at least in the interest of your legacy - keep being proven right. Go ahead, prove us wrong.

You can't beat Barack Obama. Join him.

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