It’s time to Break It Down!
I was tempted to stick with convention and simply make this a traditional New Year’s Day (Holiday) blog. However, even casual observers are likely engaged on some level with the discussion around efforts to avert the Fiscal Cliff. With this in mind, here’s what’s up with that!
Shortly after midnight onTuesday, January 1st, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to avert the Fiscal Cliff. Since the Senate is currently occupied by a majority of Democrats, it is not surprising the bill passed. That it passed easily, 89-8, including with the votes of 40 of the 45 Republicans who voted, was somewhat unexpected.
The Democratic leadership was concerned enough to assign Vice President Biden the dual role of co-lead negotiator, along with Republican Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, as well as marshaling the troops to make sure Democrats supported the bill.That the GOP supported the effort in such sizable numbers was certainly significant.
On the other side of the aisle, in the House of Representatives, there is still a lingering lack of consensus about placing Country before politics. The House spent most of yesterday dallying instead of voting. There are at least two reasons for the reluctance to act by the House.
First, there is the matter of politics. Grover Norquist, whom I have previously referenced, has challenged all Republicansto pledge not to raise taxes. In an effort to comply with this pledge, the GOP brain trust designed a hype rmicro-managing maneuver that resulted in a commitment by House Republicans to not vote on Monday on any Fiscal Cliff bill approved by Senate. Rather, they would wait until Tuesday to take action. This way, even if they were to approve a measure passed by the Senate, it would be after the Country “officially” went over the Fiscal Cliff, which meant technically, the House would be rolling back tax increases brought on by having gone over the Cliff, instead of increasing taxes, in concert with the Senate bill.
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “When you’re about to get run out of town on a rail, get out in front and call it a parade.” In line with that thought, Mr. Norquist went on record yesterday, saying he supports the Senatebill. And by the way, of course he declared it was not a tax increase. Oh what a tangled web we weave!
Second, there is the matter of politics (repetition intended). Several of the most vocal leaders of the movement to push back on the Senate bill are doing so with a clear eye on their next election, or their next position of leadership. Senators Marco Rubio (FL), and Rand Paul (KY) have already made clear, or intimated their interest in running for President in 2016. Representative Eric Cantor (VA) appears to be positioning himself to make a potential challenge to Representative John Boehner (OH), for Speaker of the House. Staking themselves out in positions opposed to President Obama…and to tax increases, looms large with Tea Party members and other fiscal conservatives whose support they crave…and whom they need desperately, if they are to recognize their ambitions.
This dynamic clash of ideas and ideals will end, at least temporarily, by Thursday, one way or another.January 3rd will mark the installation of the 113th Congress, and the close of service of the current Congress. That means, If the measure, approved by both Houses, Is not on the President’s desk by noon Thursday, the bill dies, and Congress would have to start anew. Just to be clear, the GOP has less leverage over this process today than they did on December 31st, and they will have somewhat less leverage Thursday, as the 113th Congress has a few more Democrats in both Houses of Congress, and of course, Mr. Obama will still be President; advantage Democrats.
As yesterday evening wound down, the House seemed to come to the realization that there is a need to at least vote on the Senate approved measure, versus trying to deleverage it by adding an amendment, or a series of amendments to amp up the number of spending cuts. It was projected that the House would schedule a vote around after debate. A move to exempt the vote from standing rules, which require a 72-hour review period before a vote, began around 9:00 p.m. EST.
The House approved the exemption, and subsequently voted 257-167 to approve the bill, culminating the action around 11:00 p.m. Speaker Boehner and House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan voted for the measure; House Majority Leader Cantor did not. In the other Chamber, Senator Rubio also did not vote for the Senate version of the bill. Overall, Democrats voted 172-16 in favor of the bill while Republicans voted 151-85 against it. President Obama made brief comments after the vote, and was reportedly quickly off to join his family in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he will resume his vacation.
Lest anyone suffer from the illusion that the resolution of this issue means the matter is over, and we may now move on with our lives; woe be unto your vision of the way things work. Two months from now this discordant debate will be revisited upon us with gusto, as the new battle lines will be drawn around the dual issues of the debt ceiling, and the delayed sequestration.
Clearly, there will be time and multiple opportunities in the future to address these twin challenges. The news cycles will likely begin elevating them before the ink is dry on the Fiscal Cliff legislation. For now, the answer to question, “Deal, or no Deal?” is Deal!
I’m done; holla back!
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