Rather than focus on the fact that House Speaker John Boehner suffered a defeat in trying to pass an income tax increase, it would be wiser for President Obama to use this occasion to learn a lesson about the Republican Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. That is, if he cares about passing anything in his second term.
Many elected GOP officials have been raised and have run for office on the principle that tax increases are anti-growth and therefore bad for the economy and America's future. They fail to see the wisdom in voting for a tax increase that would hurt the economy, make them break a vow and do nothing to solve America's debt problem.
Republican members would have had to go home and tell their constituents something like this: “Yes, I voted to raise taxes when I knew it would hurt the economy and do nothing to pay down our debt. Also, the tax increase I voted for was not accompanied by any entitlement reform, and, oh by the way, the taxes I voted for won't pass the U.S. Senate or be signed into law by the president. But trust me, it was the right thing to do. I understand how Washington works." Well, that is exactly how an incumbent draws a primary challenge in today's GOP.
Almost all the Republicans elected in 2010 — and many who were elected before then — are willing to just say no to bad government. They want their work here in Washington to do some good, or they want to go down in a fight, trying to make a difference and ending our decline. They were not ready to do this — too much pain for too little gain. Maybe Boehner needed to show this to the president. Today, instead of seeing a redux of the "read-my-lips" debacle of two decades ago, the president sees the unity of purpose, commitment to principle and the desire to be part of real problem solving that he didn't think existed.
Politically, I'm not completely dissatisfied with where Republicans are. This is not a disaster. In fact, it shifts the burden. The president and the Democrats now need to pass something among themselves and send it to the Republicans for their consideration and detailed scrutiny by everyone. Or the Democrats could pass nothing and reveal their true indifference about the economy. Making the Democrats go first actually turns the tables and puts the Republicans in a better place.