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Washington - Analysis: Boehner Has Few Options In Fiscal Cliff Mess

Published on: December 21, 2012 09:36 AM
By: Reuters
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Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, departs after a House Republicans meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 in Washington. Confronted with a revolt among the rank and file, House Republicans abruptly put off a vote Thursday night on legislation allowing tax rates to rise for households earning $1 million and up.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, departs after a House Republicans meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 in Washington. Confronted with a revolt among the rank and file, House Republicans abruptly put off a vote Thursday night on legislation allowing tax rates to rise for households earning $1 million and up.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington - Now that House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” for addressing the “fiscal cliff” has crashed and burned, the top U.S. Republican appears to have two remaining options - wash his hands of the entire matter or negotiate a compromise with Democrats that could abandon scores of his fellow Republicans.

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The Republican rank and file and Democrats may face an equally stark choice: work together for a change, or plunge together off the cliff.

Boehner tried to ram a “fallback” plan through the House on Thursday - a relatively tiny tax increase on millionaires and billionaires - and failed. His rambunctious Republicans, who see opposition to all tax hikes as a matter of bedrock principle and of political survival, refused to go along.

President Barack Obama and his Democrats who control the Senate take the opposite view - tax hikes on the wealthy are a condition for their support of a fiscal cliff bill. If there is to be a resolution it will largely depend on an improbable scenario - Democrats in the House teaming up with less militant Republicans to back away from the fiscal cliff.

Compromise has been out of style in recent years, and many think it could require some prodding from the markets.

“At this point, I only see one route to avoiding the cliff, a replay of the TARP debacle in 2008,” said George Washington University’s Sarah Binder, an expert on Congress. In September 2008, the House defeated the bank bailout bill and the market collapsed, prompting a terrified lawmakers to reconsider and pass it.

“In this case, a harsh market and public reaction would be needed to force the hand of the speaker to negotiate a deal that can pass with Democratic votes,” she said.

“If the GOP takes a beating in the headlines and the market tanks, I suspect a good number of rank-and-file GOP will demand that the speaker go back to the table. But absent whiplash from the markets and voters, I suspect it’s over the cliff we go.”

For the time being - or at least the 11 days until the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts are triggered - the House is in disarray and no deal to avert the fiscal cliff is in sight.

While the House in recess for a Christmas break that is likely to last at least until December 27, Boehner must decide whether to move any further in Obama’s direction and agree to tax increases much higher than his own proposal that so angered his fellow Republicans on Thursday.

The Ohio Republican also might have to settle for fewer long-term spending cuts than he had hoped for.

WALK ON BY

Boehner’s only other apparent option - one that he hinted at late on Thursday following the collapse of his bill - would be to walk away and leave the problem on Democrats’ doorstep.

“Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff,” Boehner said in a statement referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

But in a closed-door session before that statement, Republican lawmakers said Boehner told them that he would at least try to work out something with Obama.

Either way, Boehner faces the possibility of having to battle not only Democrats for the next two years, but also his own membership on major bills.

“We have people (Republican lawmakers) who felt like they had to stand on the principle ... they couldn’t vote for anything (that raised any taxes). I don’t quite understand it,” lamented Representative Buck McKeon, the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who oversaw passage of a $633 billion defense spending bill for 2013.

“If you don’t have the votes, you can’t move forward,” McKeon said of the Plan B fiscal cliff bill.

Representative Steven LaTourette, a moderate Republican who is retiring at year’s end, told reporters that Thursday’s legislative defeat - and public relations failure - will not stop Boehner from being re-elected House Speaker on January 3. “Name one member who opposes him,” LaTourette challenged reporters.

Firing Boehner, LaTourette said, would be “like saying the superintendent of the insane asylum should be discharged because he couldn’t control the crazy people.”

Nonetheless, two years into his stint as Speaker, Boehner still has not found the right formula for corralling his Republican majority, especially the Tea Party conservatives whose victories in 2010 helped Republicans wrest control of the House. However, he has taken steps in recent weeks to punish a handful of uncooperative Republicans.

Since unveiling his plan on Tuesday, several conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, waged a spirited effort to kill the measure.

Those groups, LaTourette said, had been “making their phone calls, and they’re bombing people” with pressure to vote against the bill. That, he added, “makes people nervous” about primary election challengers being recruited in 2014 by outside groups to defeat Republican lawmakers who vote for any tax increase.

“I doubt his speakership is in trouble,” said American Enterprise Institute scholar Norm Ornstein, “The big question is whether, and when, he is willing to bring up a bill that will require more Democrats than Republicans to pass.”

 

 


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1

 Dec 21, 2012 at 09:52 AM Kzler Says:

Maybe check with Sam Rayburn or LBJ

2

 Dec 21, 2012 at 10:16 AM Howard Says:

As a longtime Republican who in recent years has found myself moving further and further away from the current GOP, I think Beohner's actions are near treasonous. Despite what some of the Limbaugh/Hannity zombies mindlessly keep repeating here, a $250,000 annual income is not exactly peanuts even in New York -- in fact, the vast majority of New York residents (city and state) make well under that amount -- so stop pretending like anyone who makes more than that is a struggling worker. And the tax rates on those making over $250,000 would only go back to what they were a few years ago, which would still be lower than what they were in the 1990s. And even when Obama said, ok, we'll raise taxes on those making more than $400,000, even that wasn't good enough for the Tea Party Republicans. These Republicans are total puppets of the wealthy corporate interests -- and that's something I never thought I'd find myself saying. I cast my first vote for a Republican in 1976 but I can't take it anymore. The party has no philosophy other than opposing Obama. No wonder the Republicans are losing support from people like me.

3

 Dec 21, 2012 at 10:51 AM MistahKurtz Says:

Reply to #2  
Howard Says:

As a longtime Republican who in recent years has found myself moving further and further away from the current GOP, I think Beohner's actions are near treasonous. Despite what some of the Limbaugh/Hannity zombies mindlessly keep repeating here, a $250,000 annual income is not exactly peanuts even in New York -- in fact, the vast majority of New York residents (city and state) make well under that amount -- so stop pretending like anyone who makes more than that is a struggling worker. And the tax rates on those making over $250,000 would only go back to what they were a few years ago, which would still be lower than what they were in the 1990s. And even when Obama said, ok, we'll raise taxes on those making more than $400,000, even that wasn't good enough for the Tea Party Republicans. These Republicans are total puppets of the wealthy corporate interests -- and that's something I never thought I'd find myself saying. I cast my first vote for a Republican in 1976 but I can't take it anymore. The party has no philosophy other than opposing Obama. No wonder the Republicans are losing support from people like me.

Spot On !!!!

4

 Dec 21, 2012 at 11:19 AM markisgold Says:

Reply to #2  
Howard Says:

As a longtime Republican who in recent years has found myself moving further and further away from the current GOP, I think Beohner's actions are near treasonous. Despite what some of the Limbaugh/Hannity zombies mindlessly keep repeating here, a $250,000 annual income is not exactly peanuts even in New York -- in fact, the vast majority of New York residents (city and state) make well under that amount -- so stop pretending like anyone who makes more than that is a struggling worker. And the tax rates on those making over $250,000 would only go back to what they were a few years ago, which would still be lower than what they were in the 1990s. And even when Obama said, ok, we'll raise taxes on those making more than $400,000, even that wasn't good enough for the Tea Party Republicans. These Republicans are total puppets of the wealthy corporate interests -- and that's something I never thought I'd find myself saying. I cast my first vote for a Republican in 1976 but I can't take it anymore. The party has no philosophy other than opposing Obama. No wonder the Republicans are losing support from people like me.

Agree with #2 completely !

5

 Dec 21, 2012 at 12:03 PM Realistic Says:

The Republicans still don't get it.

98% makes less then $250,000, and even those who make a little more will barely feel it, (someone making $400,000 annually will only pay $6,000 more a year in taxes, $120 a week for a salary of $8,000). how do they plan to win elections while prodding the 1%?

If the Bush tax cut would have been deeper, they would resist even an increase to the current level. So the're running a country on philosophy, not on reality.

6

 Dec 21, 2012 at 12:40 PM chaimme Says:

we blamed wall street for the recession in 2008. will washington accept responsibilty for the recession of 2013. As a republican voter , I am done. negotate a deal and be done with it. stay in washington until its done.

7

 Dec 21, 2012 at 12:52 PM Fed up Says:

Reply to #2  
Howard Says:

As a longtime Republican who in recent years has found myself moving further and further away from the current GOP, I think Beohner's actions are near treasonous. Despite what some of the Limbaugh/Hannity zombies mindlessly keep repeating here, a $250,000 annual income is not exactly peanuts even in New York -- in fact, the vast majority of New York residents (city and state) make well under that amount -- so stop pretending like anyone who makes more than that is a struggling worker. And the tax rates on those making over $250,000 would only go back to what they were a few years ago, which would still be lower than what they were in the 1990s. And even when Obama said, ok, we'll raise taxes on those making more than $400,000, even that wasn't good enough for the Tea Party Republicans. These Republicans are total puppets of the wealthy corporate interests -- and that's something I never thought I'd find myself saying. I cast my first vote for a Republican in 1976 but I can't take it anymore. The party has no philosophy other than opposing Obama. No wonder the Republicans are losing support from people like me.

Reasonable republcans would bite the bullet and agree to modest tax hikes as long as they are matched with entitlement cuts. However, I cannot support tax hikes while watching my tax dollars supporting young able bodied people that simply would rather not work. A simple example, as a small buisness owner time and again I've hired employees that quit on me after six months because at that point they can collect unemployment. Those that game the system need to be stopped before I will allow people like you to put your hand in my pocket
Tax hikes need to be matched by entitlement cuts.

8

 Dec 22, 2012 at 08:41 PM Sekhel Says:

Reply to #7  
Fed up Says:

Reasonable republcans would bite the bullet and agree to modest tax hikes as long as they are matched with entitlement cuts. However, I cannot support tax hikes while watching my tax dollars supporting young able bodied people that simply would rather not work. A simple example, as a small buisness owner time and again I've hired employees that quit on me after six months because at that point they can collect unemployment. Those that game the system need to be stopped before I will allow people like you to put your hand in my pocket
Tax hikes need to be matched by entitlement cuts.

Employees who quit usually cannot collect unemployment insurance. They collect only if they have been fired or laid off. What state do you live in where people collect if they quit?

9

 Dec 23, 2012 at 05:33 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Sekhel Says:

Employees who quit usually cannot collect unemployment insurance. They collect only if they have been fired or laid off. What state do you live in where people collect if they quit?

They are not stupid enough to volunteer the informatin that they quit. It doesn't take much to game the system. The onus is on the employer to prove that the employee quit. If you ever were an employer , you would know this.

10

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