Here we go: Obama is getting ready to mount more public pressure on Republicans to pass an extension of just the tax cuts for those under $250,000 — and reach a deal on the fiscal cliff.
A White House official says Obama will meet today with small business owners. He’ll host another event tomorrow with middle class Americans facing the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. On Friday Obama will tour a toy manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania that may take a hit if middle class taxes go up and holiday consumption drops.
Will it work? As Jonathan Bernstein has noted, this sort of activity doesn’t necessarily move Republican members of Congress, since many only need to worry about their districts and were elected by safe margins. But such public campaigning is valuable anyway: It may keep the president and his fiscal approach popular — and the overall GOP brand unpopular — heading into the next round of midterm elections. Also: it could keep the Dem activist base engaged, post-election.
Obama has the leverage here. Yesterday’s CNN poll found that 53 percent have an unfavorable view of the GOP. More would blame Congressional Republicans (45 percent) than Obama (34) if we go over the fiscal cliff. Two-thirds say any fiscal deal should include a mix of spending cuts and tax increases; 56 percent say taxes on the rich should be kept high so government can continue helping low-income people.
The clear verdict of the election was that the safety net — and the core mission of the big progressive reforms of the 20th Century — must be preserved and that the rich must bear a greater burden for bringing down the deficit. This helps explain why Republicans are now claiming they support revenue increases via the closing of loopholes, but not by the raising of rates. Republicans can no longer maintain their no-tax-hikes-at-all-costs posture, so they are trying to create the appearance of flexibility by hinting at a break with Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.
It’s remarkable how many people are getting snookered into thinking there’s anything meaningful about this supposed “break” with Norquist. What matters is what Republicans in the end are actually willing to support in the way of tax hikes. And again: Agreeing to more revenues only via closing loopholes, in exchange for major entitlements cuts, is not a major concession. It’s merely agreeing to the Mitt Romney approach. Meanwhile, there are other signs that Republicans are not serious about showing more flexibility. For that, see the next item.
Update: In fairness, the current GOP approach may be slightly more of a concession than the Romney approach. Romney supported ending loopholes to make up revenues lost through tax cuts, not to generate additional revenues, which the current GOP approach calls for. However, this is still not a major concession, given that the presidential race was all about whether to raise tax rates on the rich. What’s more, it isn’t new: John Boehner previously signaled an openness to this approach during the debt ceiling talks
* Boehner claims he has “leverage” because of debt ceiling: John Boehner recently said Obamacare must be part of the debt talks. Now Politico reports on a remarkable exchange between Obama and Boehner, in which the Speaker told Obama that the coming debt ceiling fight constitutes “my leverage.” Boehner responded to Obama’s demand that he agree to raise it by saying: “There is a price for everything.”
Of course, in this case, the thing that has a “price” includes averting something that would be dangerous for the whole country — default. This is the clearest sign yet that we’re headed for another debt ceiling showdown, and you can bet that this time, Congressional Democrats will insist that no concessions be made to House Republicans.
* Dems holding line on safety net? Meanwhile, the New York Times goes big with a report that Dems are likely to hold the line against deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The verdict of the election seems clear: Liberalism won. So the pressure on Obama to reject demands for a major alteration of the safety net will be intense.
Another important point in the piece: Deep cuts to federal Medicaid payments to states as part of a fiscal deal would undermine efforts to get GOP governors to expand Medicaid as part of Obamacare.
* Right wingers gnash teeth as Chris Christie’s approval soars: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Chris Christie’s approval rating in New Jersey has jumped to 72 percent. This finding is particularly striking:
Voters approve 84-12 percent, including 69-28 percent among Republicans, of Christie’s praise for President Barack Obama’s actions after Sandy.
Yup, working with Obama was good politics. Maybe there’s a lesson here for the fiscal talks? Also note that over two thirds of Republicans approve of Christie’s praise for Obama — again underscoring the isolation of conservatives who ground their teeth about it.
* The GOP perspective on the fiscal cliff talks: The Republican argument is that the election also shows the public is on the GOP’s side: Many House Republicans voted for the Paul Ryan plan — with its major changes to Medicare — and survived after getting pounded for months.
However, this doesn’t change the basic situation: A compromise would involve a mix of both tax hikes and spending cuts. A compromise would entail concessions by both sides.
* The liberal perspective on the fiscal cliff talks: The bottom line of labor unions and progressive groups remains clear: It’s wrong to ask beneficiaries of entitlements to do the sacrificing in any fiscal cliff deal. This may be the “left wing” position, but multiple polls have shown that a majority of Americans agree with it.
* Don’t place too much hope in filibuster reform: As Steve Kornacki details, until the current need for 60 votes to break a filibuster is done away with, the Senate will not be a majority-rule institution, which means it won’t be adequately reformed. As I’ve been saying, the current proposals, whatever good they would do, simply wouldn’t remove the ability of the minority to thwart the will of a simple majority.
* Mixed public verdict on Obama’s handling of Benghazi: A new CNN poll finds that 54 percent disapprove of the President’s handling of the embassy attacks. However, 54 percent doesn’t believe the administration intentionally misled people about them, which is good timing, since GOP Senators are set to meet today with UN Ambassador Susan Rice, the right’s primary target for “cover up” charges.
* And pundits remain clueless about the lesson of “Lincoln”: David Dayen rightly notes that Lincoln did not compromise on the actual substantive policy goal of the 13th Amendment — banning slavery — making it particularly ludicrous for pundits to argue that the film’s message is that it’s time to compromise on a “grand bargain.”
Also, as David Weigel points out, the comparison is made even more absurd by the very big process differences between today’s Congress and that of, oh, 147 years ago.