A Small Step for the Fiscal Cliff

Despite the daily drumbeat of news coverage parsing every statement that comes out of Congress, there has been minimal progress toward a deal to avert the tax increases and spending cuts that will be triggered on January 1. Save a handful of possible apostates who have critiqued Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge, the Republican bloc has largely refused to contemplate any rate increases for the top tax bracket. Obama has all the leverage. All of the Bush tax cuts expire at the start of 2013; should that happen, the president can (correctly) accuse Republicans of grandstanding against middle-class tax cuts only to spare the upper echelon from paying a tax rate of 39.6 percent instead of the current 35 percent.

But ah ha! A small bit of fresh news broke through the morass Thursday morning. Politico reported that Republicans might cave and offer to split the difference right down the middle with Obama. "Some Republicans think it’s not such a bad idea to press Obama to accept a 37 percent top rate," the article said, "getting him to agree to massive entitlement reform, spending cuts and tax reform. That way, Republicans can fold a losing hand and go home for Christmas."

But the Beltway's bipartisan fetish is even more misplaced than usual when it comes to the fiscal cliff. Voters sent Barack Obama back to the White House, increased the Democratic majority in the Senate, and would have returned Nancy Pelosi to the speakership were it not for the inequities of gerrymandering. The public overwhelmingly supports raising taxes on the rich without cutting entitlements (see the Poll of the Day below) and Republicans will lose all of their bargaining chips if tax rates automatically go up next month. The GOP doesn't have nearly as much wiggle room in the fiscal cliff negotiations as its members have awarded themselves during their marathon lame-duck pontificating sprees, and the party is already limping through the session after some crushing November 6 blows and an ideological mid-life crisis. Why add insult to injury by delaying the inevitable surrender?

So They Say 

"I’ve watched closely the New York Jets. Coach Ryan, he’s got a problem, he’s got three quarterbacks. … He can’t decide who his quarterback will be. That’s the same problem with Republicans: Who is the quarterback?"

—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, using sports metaphors to liven up fiscal cliff talks on the Senate floor

Daily Meme: Goodbye to All That

  • The big news of the day is that South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, who was "Tea Party before Tea Party was cool," is resigning from the Senate and taking over theHeritage Foundation.
  • It's a pretty sweet gig, especially since he'll be raking in WAY more dough.
  • Regardless of who gets appointed in his stead, though, he or she will likely be far younger than the 61-year-old DeMint.
  • The South Carolina GOP chairman was heartbroken. "This was a shocker. He's just been a conservative rockstar for us for so long, and such a great leader."
  • Nancy Pelosi was not quite as upset.
  • And neither, surprisingly, was The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin.  
  • Regardless of how you feel about his politics or personality, he had an ... interestingcareer. Here were his craziest moments.
  • But who is going to replace him? DeMint is hoping for Tim Scott, who would be the only African American in the Senate.
  • Marin Cogan ate tapas with Scott and three other South Carolina representativeslast January, and they had a memorable conversation.
  • Or maybe Governor Nikki Haley will appoint herself? It hasn't happened since 1977.
  • Back in the Senate, there are a few people who should be scared now that DeMint has changed allegiances.
  • For the most part, though, the fate of the Tea Party, and the future of Jim DeMint's influence, seems up in the air

What We're Writing

  • Jonathan Bernstein unpacks the ways that filibuster reform could change the Senate.
  • Gershom Gorenberg explains why a post-election Bibi is going to be far more to the right than the one we're used to now.

 

What We're Reading

  • John Cassidy looks at some possibilities for what the fiscal cliff final compromise could look like.
  • Today, Mitch McConnell filibustered ... himself.
  • Alex Seitz-Wald explains with lots of numbers why the GOP should stop playing hard to get on the fiscal cliff.
  • Crossroads GPS is getting into the fiscal-cliff fight with a $500,000 ad buy.
  • The definitive list on how to rebuild the Republican Party.
  • In which The Financial Times published the sentence, "Mr. Osborne also talked up the soljaz on the street, if the small businesses who are the backbone of our nation may be described thus," among many other gems.
  • Noam Schieber's plea to Obama: "Dear Mr. President: Please Don’t Negotiate Over the Debt Ceiling. Please."
  • Jonathan Rauch asks, what to do about stalling middle-class growth?

 

Poll of the Day

Washington's ADD mind seems to have already forgotten that just a month ago the country elected Barack Obama. All anyone in the Beltway talks about now is how the country desires, nay, yearns for bipartisan compromise. But a new poll shows that voters knew what they wanted when they voted for Obama. According to a survey by Quinnipiac, 65 percent of the country would like to see taxes go up on the rich, compared with 31 percent opposed to the proposition. The public also opposes the GOP's efforts to trim entitlement programs. A whopping 70 percent oppose cuts to Medicaid as part of the fiscal-cliff deal.

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