As talk about the aftermath of the elections begins to coexist with plans for governing in Washington, the No. 1 issue is how the power structure in the Capitol will deal with the harsh reality of the upcoming fiscal cliff.
Speaker John Boehner’s statement yesterday was good in both tone and substance. But it was also clearly well-planned, as evidenced by its clarity and by the complementary statements that were issued by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
In the early stages of post-election governing, the Republican House appears to be well-spoken and well-organized. The ball is in the Obama administration’s court, and it will be interesting to see how President Obama responds — or if he responds at all. It will be a bad sign if the president doesn’t produce a formal response to Boehner’s overture. It will be a very bad sign if the president lets Democrats in Congress take the lead. This is the process that brought us the debacle of Obamacare. The president doesn’t have a reputation for burning the midnight oil or working particularly hard on anything besides reelection. Obama will reveal a lot about his governing intentions over the next few days.
Also, many Democrats in Congress may think they have a secret, hidden ace card to play in the negotiations about the fiscal cliff. That is, some Democrats WANT us to go over the cliff. I think they surmise that if we go over the cliff, we end up with higher taxes, slashed defense spending and a dramatically smaller economy that is perhaps less laissez faire and more suited for the entrenchment and continuing the construction of a European-model welfare state. Which is what many on the Left want anyway. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was the first Democrat to suggest this. She gave a serious speech at The Brookings Institution on July 16, 2012, where she made plain that going over the cliff was not off the table as a viable way to proceed if the Democrats didn’t get their way. Republicans and the media should expose this sentiment and plan if it has taken root within the Democrat Party. We need to know if they are pretending to negotiate when what they really want to do is facilitate the calamity.
I’ll be talking to Republican Party leaders about this issue over the next few days and will be sharing some of what I hear.