The House GOP spin on the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal
“Republicans in Congress took critical action this week to protect hardworking taxpayers from massive tax hikes. Americans are paying more for gas, more for groceries and more for health care. The last thing they need is to pay more for Washington. That’s why we made sure the temporary tax cuts passed a decade ago were made permanent. And, let me repeat that: permanent. Now we can look forward.”
--Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), in the weekly Republican address, Jan. 5, 2012
“We raised taxes on the wealthiest two percent of Americans in a bipartisan way, while preventing a middle-class tax hike that could have thrown our economy back into recession.”
--President Obama, weekly radio address, Jan. 5, 2012
Just as President Obama sugarcoated the outcome of the “fiscal-cliff” debate, House Republicans are putting their own spin on the outcome. Let’s take a look at this section of the Republican weekly address, given by the chairman of the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee.
The operative phrase here is “critical action,” which suggests that Republicans were largely responsible for the outcome. Indeed, Camp’s remarks include many jabs at Democrats, such as saying Obama and other Democrats “repeatedly refused to take any meaningful steps to make Washington live within its means.”
Yet the final vote count in the House of Representatives shows that a majority of Republicans voted against the bill, and it would not have passed without votes by Democrats. Only 85 Republicans (including Camp) supported the bill, while 151 opposed it. Meanwhile, 172 Democrats voted for the bill, while 16 opposed it. In other words, Democrats provided 67 percent of the votes.
The situation was different in the Senate, where the bill originated after talks between Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Biden. In that vote, Senate Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill, providing nearly half the votes.
It seems rather unsporting for Camp to not even acknowledge that Democrats played a role in averting fiscal disaster. Obama, in his radio address, called the vote “bipartisan.”
Camp apparently wants to avoid drawing attention to the fact that the result was far from his preferred outcome. After all, in a speech in 2010, he had vowed to oppose any effort that would fail to extend all tax rates, including rates for wealthy Americans, calling it “a terrible idea and a total non-starter.”
Note that Obama proudly notes that taxes were raised on upper-income Americans. But Camp simply ignores the fact that any taxes were increased, and instead notes that “temporary” tax rates were made permanent for “hardworking taxpayers,” protecting them from “massive tax hikes.”
That’s true for most tax rates—but not for the richest Americans, who will see a sharp increase in tax rates and also an increase in taxes on capital gains and dividends. By contrast, McConnell, when he discussed the outcome, acknowledged that taxes did go up for wealthy Americans, and that Republicans had to accept that reality to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Both Camp and Obama also maintain a conspiracy of silence on the failure to extend the payroll tax holiday. (Obama uses carefully-parsed language, saying that “income taxes” will not “go up one dime” for 98 percent of Americans.) Every American who earns a wage will see a difference in their next paycheck.
Michelle Dimarob, a spokeswoman for Camp, defended his language, saying that “Republicans schedule the [House] floor and the action of putting the bill on floor is taking critical action.” She also noted that ”40+ Republican senators also took action to protect taxpayers,” and that Obama ended up getting far less revenue from tax increases than he originally sought.
The Pinocchio Test
In the narrow technical sense cited by Camp’s spokeswoman, Republicans took “critical action.” But it seems misleading to ignore the fact that it took significant Democratic votes in the House for the bill to become law--or that income taxes were increased for at least some Americans. Presumably Camp thinks even the rich are “hardworking.”
The failure to acknowledge the votes of Democrats, or to admit that some taxes were raised. is significant enough to earn a pair of Pinocchios.
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