December 17, 2012

“No readout”: That was the terse message from House Speaker John Boehner’s office after a 45-minute meeting at the White House to discuss the “fiscal cliff.” Other than the length of the meeting, it would have nothing to report. Equally unilluminating was an earlier statement: “The President and the Speaker are meeting at the White House to continue their discussions about the fiscal cliff and balanced deficit reduction.”

House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders (Brendan Hoffman / Bloomberg)

Other, usually more loquacious GOP leadership offices were likewise mum. Either something is happening, or nothing is. Take your pick.

But at this point I think it is safe to assume there will be a vote in the House (with or without a White House deal) on whether to protect most taxpayers from a rate hike.

The politically clueless right-wing group Club for Growth (backer of Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock and other losing hard-liners) asked sarcastically whether the GOP attempt to spare everyone making less than $1 million from a tax hike “is the Republican position.” Why, yes it is, in the best-case scenario, because the option of sparing everyone from a tax hike is impossible.

Moreover, the club deliberately misleads by suggesting Boehner wants to hike tax rates on those making more than $1 million. When current tax law expires Dec. 31, everyone’s taxes will go up; Boehner is trying to spare as many from that. (When the ship is going down, you stuff as many poor souls in the lifeboat as possible; you don’t say, “I told ya so,” and watch them all drown.)

The club and other right-wing activists surely know there is little support in the country for a no-tax-increase deal. But they don’t care about sounding impractical because their money-raising model depends on taking stringent positions, no matter how unpopular they may be.

But elected GOP officials have a larger obligation — to govern as best they can and to spare the country the most economic damage possible. And, yes, they are allowed to look for their own survival by observing that a majority of Republican voters doesn’t share the Club for Growth’s take.

I suspect the heavy lifting in tax and entitlement reform will have to be done in the context of the debt-ceiling talks. But, in the meantime, it’s good for the GOP and the country that Boehner is trying to either reach a deal or expose how unwilling to do so the president is. Those with responsibility to do more than raise funds and screech about being sold down the river should keep their shoulder to the grindstone and their ear to their constituents, not the carping from those with no responsibility to govern and no repercussions from selecting losing candidate after losing candidate.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.
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