President Obama would like us to believe that the only thing standing between extension of the Bush tax cuts for everyone and expiration of those same cuts is the Republican Party. But of course, Obama has never had a solid Democratic majority on his side for raising taxes on small business and upper income taxpayers.
It now looks like he’s getting the rug pulled out from under him once again. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.) has eager staffers only too willing to highlight a Politico report that “Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois is floating a six-month extension of current rates combined with budget cuts so lawmakers have time to reach a grand bargain deal early next year.” You can count in the mix of Obama non-supporters Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and “other Democrats,” according to the report.
This will be a blow to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) who is willing to drive the economy over a cliff to soak the rich. In July the Post reported:
In a speech Monday, Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the Senate’s No. 4 Democrat and the leader of the caucus’s campaign arm, plans to make the clearest case yet for going over what some have called the “fiscal cliff.”
Sure enough she delivered her threat in a speech at the Brooking Institute. (“So, if we can’t get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013 rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle class families under the bus, and I think my party and the American people will support that.”)
At the time, a stampede of Democrats tried to distance themselves from Murray’s remarks. Wreck the economy to be able to raise taxes in a weak economy? Many members balked.
And many Democrats are balking now as well. Perhaps the president and Murray are willing to engage in the same sort of game of chicken they denounced Republicans for practicing during the debt-ceiling fight. But what Democrat in an unsafe seat (House or Senate) is going to want to vote down a measure to preserve a middle class tax cut and plunge the economy into another recession because Republicans also want to maintain the current tax rate for upper income taxpayers and small businesses? It defies common sense, let alone economic sense.
Once again we see how entirely inept is the president in these stare-down contests with Congress. He wants something he doesn’t have the votes for. He has no Plan B (either all or nothing on the Bush tax cuts). And he’s never bothered to pursue serious tax reform, which would get over the entire issue. Sounds like the 2011 budget ceiling fight? You bet.
McConnell, quoted in Bob Woodward’s book “The Price of Politics,” found out the hard way that the president wasn’t a deal-maker, telling the author the grand bargain failed in 2011 because of “a failure of presidential leadership. He [Obama] was not Reagan. He was not Clinton. At a critical moment, when we had a process in place to get solved the single biggest long-term threat to this country . . . It was very disappointing." McConnell could have added that the president also muffed the opportunity to enact bipartisan tax reform. Both those failures now come back to haunt Obama in the form of the fiscal cliff. No wonder Democrats don’t want to tie their political fate to him.