Welcome to the new bipartisan Washington, where Obama and the Republicans are not only at odds over tax cuts, they can’t even agree when to have dinner.
Tales from the Trail
Congress returns next week for that peculiar order of business known as a lame-duck session. It’s a post-election gathering where lawmakers who lost re-election get to take any final votes, while newcomers who won in the Nov. 2 midterms have to sit it out.
On Friday, President Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet to Republicans on taxes, effectively daring them to vote against a tax cut for the middle classes, just so that they can give an average of $100,000 in tax cuts to millionaires.
We hear the White House is not wildly pleased with former budget chief Peter Orszag for abandoning the party line on tax policy this week. Now Democrats in Congress are beginning to distance themselves from President Barack Obama’s push to let taxes rise for the wealthiest Americans. We are unlikely to see this resolved before the mid-terms anyway, and there are still several different ways this could pan out. One possible compromise would be a short extension of the tax cuts for the rich and a longer extension for the middle classes, keeping any crucial decisions as far away from the 2012 campaign season as possible.
A smart move by Republican leader John Boehner today, or a nicely laid trap if you prefer. Boehner echoed yesterday’s call from former White House budget director Peter Orszag, for a two-year extension to the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans. Boehner appealed for both parties to “do this together” to “show the American people that we understand what is going on in this country.” There was, of course, one big difference between Boehner’s and Orszag’s suggestions – the Republican leader conveniently left out the all-important promise to let all the tax cuts expire at the end of that two-year period. Not surprisingly, President Barack Obama swiftly rejected the offer, insisting that the country could not afford to extend tax cuts for the rich. “This isn’t to punish folks who are better off — God bless them – it is because we can’t afford the $700 billion price tag,” he said in Ohio. You get the feeling this partisan battle isn’t going to be settled easily or early, and the lingering uncertainty this creates is probably not good news for the economy. Expect the blame game to continue.
In the past few days we have seen the president and the chairman of the Federal Reserve both standing up and insisting they had more cards at their disposal to rescue the faltering American economy. In truth, though, both men look like they are holding weak hands, and are reduced, for the time being, to putting a brave face on things.
WASHINGTON – Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were unapologetic on Friday after not a single one of them voted for the $787 billion economic stimulus package.
The Democratic majority pushed the spending and tax cuts measure through the House 246-183 at the urging of Democratic President Barack Obama, who had courted Republican support.
Republican leaders insisted the plan may do more harm than good by expanding government and not doing enough to create private-sector jobs.
Representative Virginia Foxx went further. “I think it’s a cruel hoax on the American people that they have been led to believe that by passing this bill that there are suddenly going to be millions of jobs out there, particularly for blue collar workers that have lost their jobs,” she said.
Through weeks of debate, the two parties stuck to their ideologies, with Republicans favoring tax cuts and Democrats leaning toward government spending.
Republicans may be hoping their lock-step opposition will help vault them back into majority status in the House. They look longingly back to 1993, when every House Republican voted against a balanced-budget plan by then-President Bill Clinton that accomplished its goal.
Nonetheless, Republicans took control of the House in 1994 elections.
Asked whether Republicans risked looking bad if the U.S. economy does recover in the near term, House Republican Leader John Boehner said: “I think standing on principle and doing the right things for the right reasons on behalf of your constituents will never get you in trouble.”
Bipartisanship may be about to take a back seat to political reality in Washington.
President Barack Obama sharpened his rhetoric Thursday as he pushed the U.S. Senate to pass his nearly $900 billion economic stimulus bill, hammering Republican complaints that the measure doesn’t have enough tax cuts.
The Republican push is “rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve all our problems, that government doesn’t have a role to play, that half-measures and tinkering are somehow enough, that we can afford to ignore our most fundamental economic challenges,” Obama told an audience of Energy Department staffers.
“So let me be clear: Those ideas have been tested, and they have failed. They’ve taken us from surpluses to an annual deficit of over $1 trillion. And they’ve brought our economy to a halt,” he said.
“Time for talk is over,” Obama said. “The time for action is now.”
The president’s shift in rhetorical tone came amid press criticism that the White House has let Republicans win the communications battle over his stimulus plan by characterizing it as wasteful and excessive.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs rejected the notion that Obama was backing away from his pledge of bipartisanship, noting the president hosted moderate Republicans Wednesday at the White House.
But asked if it was unfair to characterize Obama’s remarks as showing signs of impatience, Gibbs said: “I mean, I think when he said the time to talk is over, I think it’s fair to read impatience into that.”
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