It is not exactly a profile in courage. The Hill reports, “Senate Democratic centrists, whom Grover Norquist describes as the ‘hostages’ in the tax debate, are lying low and keeping quiet about competing proposals from President Obama and House GOP leaders. These centrists have declined to endorse Obama’s opening offer to raise taxes by $1.6 trillion, twice the size of the tax increase most of them voted for in July.” (They did vote against the president’s very similar budget plan — unanimously.)
Neither, though, are they backing the House Republicans’ plan nor offering anything of their own. At least a few are admitting to the Hill their potted-plan approach to governance:
“What I’m doing on all of those fiscal cliff-type issues is just waiting to see what package we put together,” said Sen. Mark Pryor (D), who faces reelection in Republican-leaning Arkansas in 2014.
Pryor said he wanted to see more detail in [House Speaker John] Boehner’s plan.
“Just sort of general and vague statements about what he might support at some point — doesn’t really move the ball very far down the road,” Pryor said of Boehner’s plan. He said he also wanted to know more about Obama’s blueprint before passing judgment.
Really, this is the conduct of a U.S. senator? Well, yes, if one recalls that Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in more than three years.
Don Stewart, communications director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), emphasizes that the president, in all likelihood, lacks the support among Democrats to pass his wish-list. He tells me, “To date, not a single Senate Democrat has come forward to endorse the President’s job-killing tax hike and bizarre request for a permanent authority to raise the debt ceiling whenever he wants for as much as he wants.”
If the president is feeling invincible, Senate Democrats should be feeling vulnerable. Republicans have yet to really turn up the heat, either forcing votes among the nervous Dems or running ads in their home states. (However, American Crossroads is out with a national ad buy, criticizing the president’s approach as unbalanced.)
To be sure, Republicans have plenty of material to work with. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes:
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who faces voters in 2014, declined to endorse the substance of the plan [Treasury] Secretary Timothy Geithner circulated on Capitol Hill last week.
“I don’t know if that ratio is going to end up being final,” he said of Obama’s call for a 2-to-1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts. Sen. Mary Landrieu, another Democrat up for reelection in a red state, Louisiana, said Boehner’s offer “is better than no proposal.” “I know that Speaker Boehner is really trying, so any proposal is better than no proposal,” she said.
Thunk. At some point it might behoove the Republicans to pass their best effort at preventing the “fiscal cliff,” send it to the Senate and then let Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) explain why that isn’t good enough and why his party won’t put anything on the table themselves.
It is better than waiting for the president to offer something reasonable.