Great Political Buzzwords of the '90s: "Wedge Issue."

The tax deal that President Obama and Senate Republicans crafted inspired a lot of questions about triangulation last week, most of them reductive and all of them answered by our own Mori Dinauer and, subsequently, Jonathan Bernstein in this post: "Triangulation is an advertising slogan coined by Dick Morris to advertise himself -- to give him as large a share of the credit for Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election as possible. That's all."

But this deal strikes me, potentially, as a wedge issue for Republicans -- a policy position that splits up an otherwise united base. How many other debates have found establishment Republicans like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner actually disagreeing with Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Hugh Hewitt, Jim Demint and at least some Tea Partiers?

Right now, of course, Republicans will support the bill; no doubt at least of some of the opposition is posturing, and some is recognition that the president got an OK bargain. But next year, a new class of legislators is coming to Washington with a lot of ideas about the debt and deficit that have never been popular with longtime Republican leaders who haven't displayed much tangible interest in fiscal responsibility. This could be the start of a long argument among Republicans in Congress that the White House and congressional Democrats will attempt to exploit -- especially when it comes to the debt ceiling.

-- Tim Fernholz

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