Today, the House will vote on John Boehner’s alternate fiscal cliff proposal, which would raise tax rates only on income over $1 million. It’s unclear whether it will pass. Boehner can only afford around two dozen defections, and The Hill’s whip count shows that 11 Republicans will likely vote No and more than a dozen more are undecided. If “plan B” fails, Boehner will be badly weakened, and perhaps left unable to broker any kind of compromise with Obama in January if we go over the cliff. It’s unclear how that would play out.
But what if “plan B” does pass? How do the White House and Dems respond? There are some on the right who think that if Boehner gets the bill through, it will put pressure on Senate Democrats to take it up or take the blame for going over the cliff.
I don’t see it. The more likely outcome is that Democrats will just let Boehner continue to twist in the wind. As Politico puts it:
Senate Democrats haven’t settled on a final strategy, but the most likely option is they don’t even take the House bill up — if it passes — and pound the speaker for refusing to cut a deal with Obama.
Good. There is no reason for Dems to sweat the House bill. A new poll from CNN explains why: The GOP’s brand is in terrible shape and Republicans are poised to take the blame for any failure to reach a deal. Fifty three percent of Americans see GOP policies as too extreme. Fewer than a third trust the Congressional GOP more than Obama to deal with the nation’s most pressing problems. Obama’s approval rating is at 52 percent. Forty eight percent will blame the GOP if we go over the cliff; only 37 percent will blame the President.
There is no reason for Obama to make any more concessions. His last offer was already loaded up with too many of them, to a fault. Folks on the left are already unhappy and perplexed by Obama’s decision to move so far off of his original position, only to be met by yet another display of GOP intransigence. But there’s still time to get this right. By any reasonable measure, Obama has already compromised enough, and then some. The public is on Obama’s side. It should be plainly obvious to anyone but the most determined false-equivalencers that Obama and Democrats occupy the sensible middle ground in this debate. Boehner’s demand that Obama agree to keep taxes low on all income up to $1 million or we go over the cliff is simply ludicrous. No more concessions.
* The strategy behind “plan B”: National Journal explains:
What cards exactly the speaker is playing depends on whom you ask, but the game appears to be this: Pass Plan B so the party is inoculated if no bigger deal is reached and the nation goes over the fiscal cliff…In other words, Republicans could claim they were willing to be reasonable and raise rates.
Won’t work. If we go over the cliff, the public will blame Republicans.
* Republicans dig in against any action on guns: The Times surveys a number of House Republicans and finds many still won’t entertain the notion that the massacre of 20 children should prompt a new effort to tighten gun laws. However, this, from a top conservative, James Sensenbrenner, is interesting:
“As the president said, no set of laws will prevent every future horrific act of violence or eliminate evil from our society, but we can do better.”
Sensenbrenner supported the Brady bill in the 1990s, which instituted a federal background check. It will be interesting to see if any Republicans will even consider doing away with the massive loophole in this law.
* Obama should act on guns without Congress: New York mayor Michael Bloomberg identifies steps the President could take by executive action: Make a recess appointment to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and direct the Justice Department to crack down harder on rogue gun dealers and gun criminals who try to buy guns. Doing this would put Congress on notice that Obama is dead serious about fighting for real action and using the full power of his office to do so.
* Don’t let the NRA off the hook: NRA head Wayne LaPierre is sitting for an interview on Meet the Press on Sunday. I hope David Gregory doesn’t let LaPierre get away with mouthing mushy platitudes about mental illness and violence as a cultural problem. The main problem here is easy access to guns, and we already have a range of available solutions. Pin him down on whether there is a single one of these the NRA can support.
* NRA losing support among pro-gun Democrats: Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger get at an important story here: The willingness of pro-gun Dems to break with the NRA signal larger political shifts that are underway, as Democrats become less reliant on rural voters, due to the emerging Dem coalition of the future. The reason this matters is the NRA may wneed the backing of many Dems in Congress if it is to block legislative action.
* On guns, this time it’s different: E.J. Dionne runs through all the reasons for skepticism that meaningful action will ever happen, and concludes Obama has a historic opportunity to break this pattern. The stakes are huge: As E.J. puts it, nothing less than a fundamental change in the country’s relationship to guns may now be within reach, which makes it all the more incumbent on Obama not to waver here.
Also: As the Post editorial board rightly notes, while Obama appears to grasps the need to emphasize sensible and specific policy options right away, this must not be allowed to dissipate, since public support for action could prove fleeting.
* More good economic news: GDP in the third quarter has been revised upwards again, this time to 3.1 percent. This may help explain why Obama’s victory was more decisive than the polls were predicting.
* Will Scott Brown return to the Senate? With John Kerry reported to be Obama’s likely pick for Secretary of State, Scott Conroy takes a look at the jockeying that’s already underway to claim his Massachusetts Senate seat. Brown came out for an assault weapons ban yesterday, a clear effort to position himself for another run. However, with Vicki Kennedy, Ben Affleck (!), and several Democratic members of Congress all possible candidates in a crowded Dem primary, Brown is almost certain to face a strong challenge, and could well be denied reentry, given the tilt of the state.