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Amazingly, the House Passed It

[ 127 ] January 2, 2013 |

So what now? I think this is about right:

So what we have is two more showdowns in which the parties disagree not just on the outcome but even on the parameters of an outcome. Obama thinks the debt ceiling needs to be raised, full stop, without becoming a bargaining chip in a fight that threatens the stability of the global economy. Republicans want to use that chip. Then there’s the sequester, which Obama thinks should be replaced with spending cuts and tax revenue, and Republicans think should be replaced with spending cuts and more spending cuts.

If Obama makes it through both these events without either accepting draconian social policy or triggering an economic meltdown, then today’s compromise will be seen as a clever first step. That’s not what I expect. I expect instead that his willingness to bargain away his strongest leverage, and the central theme of his reelection, will make the next rounds harder, and embolden Republicans further. I suspect he will wish he had ripped off the Band-Aid all at once, holding firm on tax cuts and daring House Republicans to defy public opinion.

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  1. James E Powell says:

    We’ll all know soon enough, but I agree completely with the above.

    I’m curious to hear from others because I don’t even know how to play 11 dimensional chess – in what ways will the president’s bargaining position improve? And how?

    • Murc says:

      It won’t.

      I am predicting a government shutdown. I don’t see how we avoid this without Obama caving.

      A cave is, of course, a real possibility. But if he stands his ground on this, if Biden wasn’t lying his ass off, no way the government doesn’t shut down. That is a thing that WILL happen.

      • timb says:

        They could use the 14th Amendment thing, but I can’t see this White House doing that when they win a government shut down argument too.

        Besides, it will just give the house a reason to impeach him.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          it will just give the house a reason to impeach him.

          I don’t think this would happen, but even if it did, who cares? He couldn’t be removed from office, and is there any reason to think that House Republicans would win the public relations battle on an even more frivolous impeachment than the last one?

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            If it happened before the 2014 elections, it could really hurt them. It could turn the midterm elections into a presidential like one. Indeed, It’s hard to imagine, for example, that blacks wouldn’t turn out in record numbers.

            (I guess if it stretched over the election, it might galvanize republicans to vote in conviction votes…)

          • Scott, while what you are saying makes sense….the GOP in the House (well, most of ‘em anyway) are not sensible. They do not care, and will do this anyway, or try to.

            I do wonder if they’ll get a push from some on the far Left, like say, Greenwald or Swanson or Turley, since there’s also some rumbling there about impeaching Obama for either drone strikes or Bradley Manning or the fact that he didn’t bring love and peace by snapping his fingers.

            Of course impeachment doesn’t make sense, and will certainly trigger an avalanche of ill will towards the GOP. But they don’t care.

            • Anon21 says:

              I do wonder if they’ll get a push from some on the far Left, like say, Greenwald or Swanson or Turley, since there’s also some rumbling there about impeaching Obama for either drone strikes or Bradley Manning or the fact that he didn’t bring love and peace by snapping his fingers.

              Except impeachment has to be based on specific formal charges. Greenwald et al. wouldn’t support impeaching Obama for blowing past the debt ceiling, and House Republicans wouldn’t support impeaching Obama for drone strikes or Bradley Manning.

              But I agree with Scott and Bijan: this would only hurt the Republicans, so I expect Boehner not to let it pick up too much steam, even in the extremely unlikely event that Obama actually does ignore the debt ceiling rather than giving away the store for a brief extension.

              • Eric says:

                This assumes that Boehner remains Speaker.

                • Anon21 says:

                  I don’t think the calculus changes much for Cantor. Unless Walter Jones (one of the guys that got purged) or someone like that becomes Speaker, impeachment seems unlikely. For the most part, guys with enough pull and influence in the institutional party to become Speaker don’t burn the whole thing down to make themselves feel better.

                  But if they do decide to impeach him, it’s no skin off my nose. Maybe the only thing they could do to set up a Democratic takeover of the House in 2014.

            • I, for one, am furious that Obama sold on on Chained CPI and the Medicare age.

              Wait, that didn’t happen? The deal is much better than I kept saying it would be?

              Uh…EMBOLDEN! No, wait: EMBOLDEN!!!

          • timb says:

            Because he is — temperamentally — against those kind of fights. He would rather negotiate a compromise than fight impeachment proceedings.

            In the end, he will win either of those fight

      • socraticsilence says:

        I would point out that despite all the times everyone’s called Obama spineless and said he’d never achieve anything his first term belies these beliefs: the ACA, repeal of DADT, SALT and raising the capital gains tax rates all while dealing with an unprecedentedly obstructionist congress is a more than decent record.

        Note: The ACA is first for a reason- despite what some have said about it being a sell out it is truly a mammoth achievement- the work of generations of center-left policy makers finally coming to fruition.

        • brewmn says:

          I can’t believe we’re back to whingeing about “well, it looks like Obama got a pretty good deal, but I don’t like the way he got it?” Hasn’t the drama-queen left gotten tired of playing this song by now?

          Nothing Obama can do is going to prevent the Republicans from attempting to hold the entire American political system, and even the American economy, hostage if they perceive such hostage-taking to be in their political interests. All he can hope to do is beat them at the trench warfare they have declared.

        • Paula says:

          There were no cuts in benefits, there was no chained-CPI, the Bush tax cuts still go away for the highest income earners, and people still get to keep their unemployment benefits.

          So the worst-things-ever that the professional bloggers kept predicting would happen didn’t happen yet again (what is this, like, the THIRD OR FOURTH TIME that’s happened?). And yet this deal is still the awfullest worst thing that Barack Obama has ever done, except for maybe drones.

          A-OK.

    • DrDick says:

      Likewise. At present, I only see this as a brief reprieve and not cause for dancing in the streets.

    • actor212 says:

      Prima facie, he broke the monolith of Republican votes.

      There’s an old saying that everyone has a price, it’s just a matter of finding it. Now that the dam has burst — and on a tax increase, to boot — Obama has more leverage today than he had Monday when Boehner couldn’t deliver any Republican votes. He can make deals with this group

  2. ChrisTS says:

    Amazing (including that three of us are up at this hour).

    I have to say I thought the House would block it. Now that they have not… I have NO idea what the playbook looks like.

    I wonder if the Prez thought they would block it, leaving everyone with the clear impression that the [House} Republicans were to blame. As they did not, will we all be saying that *they* ‘folded’? Or, will this be yet another reason to fault our President?

    By the way – as it is just the three of us – there is an ad on the far right of this page that is unsettlingly like octopus activity.

  3. ChrisTS says:

    P.S. An edit function is especially desirable in the wee hours.

  4. LosGatosCA says:

    First game at home with our strongest pitcher starting and completing a good game. But it’s a seven game series and the next two will be on the road. Since Obama has staked out the debt limit as non-negotiable, he’s in a precarious position. He’s going to have to rely on the bully pulpit and surrogates to shape a popular consensus (pollable) that agrees.

    He got a break this time on the relaxation of the Hastert rule. How reliable that will be going forward is a wildcard. If Boehner has indicated he will do this again for the debt limit, then Obama only has to focus on sequestration. Perhaps the new Republican congress critters will have a more realistic view of the art of the possible from this demonstration. If that’s true then Obama forcing action before the new congress convenes may minimize the revenge factor. Won’t take much for these wingnuts to turn rabid at any time.

    This is far from over and lots of moving parts/people.

    One last positive point was that Obama did focus only on Medicare spending efficiencies in his announcement. That was good. If he can gameplan Obamacare implementation and Medicare spending (not service) cuts as the main deficit reduction points on the entitlement side + defense cuts, he could have a winner.

    No easy path to that, obviously.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      Meant also to include that Obama/team needs to up his game on communicating with the public in selling his plan and helping to focus public opinion on what’s broken as well as maintain a more effective negotiating strategy. The pressure on the Republicans can only come from their constituents/donors/consultants. Any reliance on duty, honor, rationality on the part of Republicans is misguided. Even deals with Boehner are at risk of a revolt causing a change in their leadership before they can be consummated.

      • Murc says:

        Meant also to include that Obama/team needs to up his game on communicating with the public in selling his plan and helping to focus public opinion on what’s broken

        This is something he should do, but because it can pay off electorally in the long term.

        As far as current negotiations go, nothing Obama does to move the needle on public opinion is really going to have much effect one way or the other, because members of the general public do not have votes in the House or the Senate. Only members of those bodies do.

        And the House and Senate members in question simply do not care and cannot be made to care using any tool Obama has at his disposal. They are beholden to interests that WANT to burn the country down, that regard attempts to do so as a positive good.

        • swearyanthony says:

          I saw him refer to the debt limit as paying for stuff they’d already authorized. This is new, I think, and welcome. Point out the bullshit around “giving Obama a blank cheque” and whatever.
          And next time round when the GOP demands cuts, make them *publicly* state exactly what cuts they want. Nail them on this. No more bullshit of letting the GOP hint at wanting Social Security gutted. Make them own their own positions.

    • Eric says:

      There’s no such thing as the Hastert Rule. I mean, Hastert claimed that he wouldn’t put bills up for a vote that didn’t have the support of a majority of the Republican caucus, but it’s not an ironclad rule that anyone has to follow.

      • Joe says:

        [insert proper Pirates of Caribbean reference here]

      • JKTHs says:

        There’s no such thing as the Hastert Rule. I mean, Hastert claimed that he wouldn’t put bills up for a vote that didn’t have the support of a majority of the Republican caucus, but it’s not an ironclad rule that anyone has to follow.

        Perhaps the Democrats would strengthen their negotiating positions if they had bullshit rules and pledges.

    • He’s going to have to rely on the bully pulpit and surrogates to shape a popular consensus (pollable) that agrees.

      He already has that consensus; he won it in the July 2011 negotiations. Everyone is primed to blame the Republicans.

      I don’t know how much good this will do him in the negotiations, since the Republicans are Honey Badgers, but he’s won that political advantage.

  5. Paul says:

    As far as current negotiations go, nothing Obama does to move the needle on public opinion is really going to have much effect one way or the other, because members of the general public do not have votes in the House or the Senate. Only members of those bodies do.

    Good Point and one all the left sky is falling types seem to forget.

    But as we get closer to the Debt Limit and now sequester fight Obama has managed to cement his image as a deal maker, while the House Republicans look petulant. It won’t change their (House Repubs) minds but it is nice to go into that argument with a firm public perception.

    Obama also gets too shots of high profile coverage in the next couple weeks. He and his surrogates need to hammer home every day on every outlet that the debt ceiling has nothing to do with the debt or the deficit. The Congress is in charge of spending this it is just allowing the President to pay past invoices. All those supposed small business job creators who vote red should appreciate how frustrating it is to send an invoice that is marked 120 days past due… Not only that given the low cost of borrowing right now for the US how many Americans would really pay off debt vs refi.

    In any case the President still has automatic cuts to the Pentagon to bargain with.

    Second I disagree with the thrust of the article that somehow long term revenue was traded away fecklessly for short term recovery.

    Look we had the Clinton era tax rates under Clinton and a surplus and they went away when the Dems lost. Unless you think Obama was going to use his supposed leverage to write higher tax rates and no newwar with Iran into the Constitution the fight here is for 2014/16. If the US economy can start sustaining some decent growth even while Japan stays in neutral and the Euro Zone falls into recession maybe the Blue team can erode the Red in the Congress. Do it for two more years after that and say start exporting LNG in a big way and maybe we get another Democratic president.

    Taxes can always be raised or reduced – and its useful to recall that 2013 also brings other revenue under Obamacare. While it might feel good to some to go all France on the Super Rich (of course even there its not exaclty uncontroversial) that is there this is here and the actual achievable reality is not the same.

    On balance I think Obama is betting a sustained recovery is worth sub optimal deals that can always be altered if the democrats can hold or improve their Congressional position on a better economy.

    • Julia Grey says:

      While it might feel good to some to go all France on the Super Rich (of course even there its not exaclty uncontroversial)

      Didn’t their Supreme Court just throw out their top 75% marginal rate?

      • mds says:

        Yes, but on a technical screw-up over applying it to individuals rather than households. They’ll presumably repass it with the relevant fix, unless Gerard Depardieu changes their minds in the meantime.

  6. Chuchundra says:

    To me, this seems like a big win for the Democrats because Obama broke two, fairly important things that the GOP have been holding on to since the late Clinton years, the Hastert Rule to not bring any bill to the floor that doesn’t have the support of a majority of the majority and the Norquist pledge not to raise taxes ever on anything for any reason.

    Obama has sowed some dissension in the ranks of the GOP. Maybe that’s just enough to keep them all from holding hands and singing kumbaya as the American economy sails into the abyss if they don’t get their way. Maybe I’m just being overly optimistic.

    • Steve LaBonne says:

      That’s how I look at it. I was very pleasantly surprised at how things went down. I think it puts Obama in a significantly stronger position in March, especially since he doesn’t even have to peel off as many Repubs in the new Congress.

    • bradP says:

      Norquist pledge not to raise taxes ever on anything for any reason

      Do you think it opened the flood gates?

  7. c u n d gulag says:

    HUZZAH!!!

    The Union forces “won” the 2nd Battle of Bullsh*t Run!

    Now, on to DebtCeilingburg…

  8. bradP says:

    I’m having a hard time putting all of this together, is this basically correct:

    A tax increase on incomes above $450K, a reduction on deductions, and a slight increase in cap gains and dividend taxation resulting in about $600B in revenue over the next 10 years.

    An extension of unemployment benefits, EITC, wind energy tax credits, and college credit expansions.

    • David W. says:

      It’s worth noting that the payroll tax cuts over the past two years weren’t extended. The NYT has a summary of the impacts here:

      http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/01/01/us/politics/impact-of-the-tax-deal.html

      • JKTHs says:

        I’d imagine the majority of people will have their taxes go up relative to 2012 (not sure if that was said in the article).

        • bradP says:

          Yes, it appears that everyone will have a larger tax burden, although the increase is very progressive.

        • mds says:

          Yeah, I’m not one of the folks living primarily off of capital gains and dividends, who if they had any self-awareness were popping extra champagne corks over avoiding the return of the original Clinton-era rates. Nor am I expecting to inherit an estate worth more than $1 million. I’m just a wage-earner below the FICA cap whose taxes are going back up at the next paycheck. But at least they’ll go back up less than they otherwise would have, since I make way under $450K and have a child. And I’ll grudgingly admit that it’s probably just as well that Social Security gets its additional funding back.

        • actor212 says:

          Calling the payroll tax a “tax” is a bit of a misnomer. Taxes are what you pay to provide societal services. The money that funnels into Social Security…or rather, nominally does…gets paid back to you later. This is more like saying each of us is saving 2% more of our salaries each year, and how the Dems should frame it.

          • tonycpsu says:

            Actually, framing safety net programs as “you get back what you pay in” is what will eventually kill them. They are to be there regardless of how much you pay in, assuming you meet the eligibility criteria. Your way of thinking is what allows Republicans to sell seniors on killing Medicare by keeping it for today’s seniors but shrinking/eliminating it for their kids and grandkids.

          • Anon21 says:

            This isn’t true. First, it doesn’t get “paid back,” because SS benefits aren’t in any way proportional to what the beneficiary “paid in.” Second, taxes are taxes. Politicians are perfectly happy to raid supposedly locked boxes for revenue when they want it. Regardless of how you “frame” this, it’s a tax increase on most Americans at a time when we need lower taxes to stimulate demand.

      • tonycpsu says:

        Not getting the payroll tax included in the deal is a pretty big whiff on the blue team’s part. I’d imagine the Republicans are getting their 2014 “Obama raised taxes on middle class working folks” ads ready.

        • Cody says:

          This seems like an awful attack line or the GOP.

          “Obama raised taxes on middle class, we voted for it! Oh wait, what’s that? We’re the party that you only vote for not to raise taxes and we also did? Sorry for reminding you…”

    • Rhino says:

      A slight increase in capital gains? 33.3% is a pretty huge increase. Especially since nothing stops future governments from increasing it further.

  9. One more thing to consider: last night, 80 Republicans broke with the rest of their party in breaking with the Hastert Rule. When the new Congress sits, we’ll only need 17 to break the Hastert Rule.

    • John says:

      No, you’ll need 17 and the House leadership.

      • John says:

        To elaborate on this – there’s no way Boehner (assuming he even stays on as Speaker) is going to bring anything to a vote that has only 17 Republicans supporting it.

      • somethingblue says:

        This. People are getting way too excited about the Hastert Rule thing. Expecting it to be a precedent going forward is as naive as expecting Scalia to be bound by Bush vs. Gore.

    • elm says:

      As long as one of those 17 is Boehner, sure. He proved yesterday that he is saner than Cantor et al. But is he sane enough to avoid global economic meltdown if the debt limit isn’t raised? I dunno.

      I actually think that’s the tougher fight, as the Dems have a fair bit of leverage in the sequestration fight since the Reps don’t want to see defense cuts about as much as the Dems don’t want to see social spending cuts.

  10. cpinva says:

    i guess, not being a constitutional lawyer/prefesser and all, i don’t quite understand the belief that the 14th amendment isn’t constitutional, being as how it’s in the constitution and everything.

    is there some super-secret, real constitution, that only constitutional lawyers/prefessers are privy to? one that doesn’t include the 14th amendment? or is john yoo secretly working for the obama administration, and he provided a memo, concluding that the 14th amendment doesn’t actually say, what it actually says?

    the truth is, this is the real obama. after 4 years of being beaten about the intellectual head & shoulders, by republicans who have said, consistently, that they will not work with the president, will do everything in their power to obstruct this president, and would rather see the country, and the world, collapse into flaming chaos, rather than be even perceived of having cooperated, in any way, shape or form with this president, still thinks that the republicans will honestly negotiate/compromise, for the good of the country. they won’t, ever.

    they don’t care, and neither, apparently, do their constituents, wealthy and poor alike. they would rather the entire world be trashed, than pay even a smidgeon more in taxes, or let those people get any more (or any) help from the rest of us. that’s just how they are, they aren’t going to change, and obama just seems to have brain-block, where that’s concerned.

    • Steve LaBonne says:

      Well, in my universe, he just succeeded in splitting the Republican caucus. And since doing that is going to be a pre-requisite for avoiding anarchy throughout the next several years, I’d say it’s kind of an accomplishment.

      • DrDick says:

        I had not really thought of that (it is still early in Mountain Time), but that is a good point.

      • bradP says:

        Could you build on the implications there a little more?

        • Steve LaBonne says:

          I just mean that while it has limited significance in itself, if it serves as a precedent for future votes it will turn out to be be important. Because there is nothing remotely sane that the majority of House Republicans will vote for, ever. So even the basics of governing over the next 2 years (and probably more) just can’t happen without multiple votes of the kind we say last night.

    • tonycpsu says:

      Norms matter, and for good or for ill, the norm is that the executive branch is bound to obey the stupid, probably unconstitutional debt ceiling. I wouldn’t want SCOTUS making a go/no-go decision on it, so I prefer the platinum coin seigniorage solution, since it’s explicitly written into law.

      • timb says:

        The Supreme Court would not take a position on such a case. It’s a political question

        • tonycpsu says:

          I’m not so sure about that with the composition of this particular court. Even so, why not go with the route that has an explicit loophole rather than risking the spectacle of a constitutional crisis?

        • Anon21 says:

          “Political question” doesn’t mean what you think it means. If a case somehow made its ways to the Supreme Court, there would be no prudential barriers to deciding the constitutionality of the debt ceiling.

          • Joe says:

            The USSC can and has when actually deciding on a case in front of them declared something a political question. Even if they didn’t so decide, the “prudential barrier” would be there. They would just have rejected it.

            • Anon21 says:

              Yes, but this isn’t the kind of thing that’s ever been considered a political question. Think decisions about the internal workings of the other branches (e.g., the procedure by which the Senate tries impeachments). When you’ve got a federal law and a constitutional provision it supposedly conflicts with, SCOTUS isn’t just going to shout “Political question!” because it’s a politically controversial issue.

              Mind, that doesn’t mean they can’t find some other way of not deciding it. I’d bet on standing. (When in doubt, always bet on standing.) But the political question doctrine just isn’t suited.

              • timb says:

                Yes, they would. When Congressmen sued the Executive to stop the war in Iraq, it was dismissed as a political question.

                In a fight between the Executive branch and Congress, the Supremes will not intervene. In a fight between Congress and the President’s person, they will occasionally intervene.

                The idea that a determination of how to raise revenue to meet financial commitments is not a conversation about the internal workings of the Legislative branch is pretty far-fetched

                • Anon21 says:

                  Yes, they would. When Congressmen sued the Executive to stop the war in Iraq, it was dismissed as a political question.

                  Link to the opinion, or name of the case? Cause a) foreign policy is different, and b) from my recollection, that was actually a standing thing. (Always bet on standing.)

                  The idea that a determination of how to raise revenue to meet financial commitments is not a conversation about the internal workings of the Legislative branch is pretty far-fetched

                  You’ll have to elaborate, cause budgets and paying bills are actually extremely external to the legislative branch; indeed, almost all the implementation of that stuff, once it becomes law, is left to the executive. By the standard you seem to be employing, every legal dispute involving federal law is internal to the legislative branch, since all laws originate in Congress. But actually, once a bill becomes law, it generally becomes a standard for judgment that courts routinely apply.

                  Again, I think what’s going on here is a confusion between “politically controversial” and the “political question doctrine.” The latter is very rarely invoked, but courts have other ways of dodging politically controversial issues.

        • Hornet_Queen says:

          That would be an ecumenical matter!

    • Joe says:

      “Republicans” just voted for a negotiated compromise that raised taxes. In the Senate, in fact, most of them did. They did not do everything they could. They had the votes in the House to block the compromise supported by the President. It was in their “power.” They did not. So, what are you talking about, exactly?

      As to the “14A,” the actual meaning of that section is not crystal clear so if Obama (or any President) started to unilaterally, before it was seen as really really necessary do something really novel because of some assumed “compulsion” there, it would be quite controversial. We were never at that point yet.

    • John says:

      Nobody thinks the 14th Amendment isn’t constitutional. There is disagreement about the meaning of a particular phrase in the 14th Amendment. The meaning you prefer does not seem to have any precedent backing it up, so it would be highly controversial to act on that interpretation of it.

    • Shorter: “What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ don’t you understand?”

      Protip: when a reading of the Constitution that has never, ever bees used to either set policy or determine a court case is presented as the only reading that anyone could possibly adopt, the person making the assertion is talking out of his ass.

  11. David W. says:

    IMO, it’s a small win for the Democrats, and that it probably would have been bigger if the economy was doing better as that would have made it more credible for the D’s to threaten the Republicans with a total removal of the Bush-era tax cuts. FWIW, I think Obama handled it pretty well in terms of tilting the field in the Democrats favor for the next fiscal battle.

    • JKTHs says:

      I think the package is meh on its own merits, still leaving a good deal of fiscal drag in place. It could have been much better given the situation and I don’t know how the Democrats didn’t leverage it for much more. Of course, to fully evaluate this, we’ll have to see how the debt ceiling plays out.

      • David W. says:

        Well, we’ll see but given that over 80 GOP members in the House crossed the aisle to support this deal, that’s where I’d be looking for votes to raise the debt ceiling.

      • John says:

        Could it have been much better? Did the Democrats really have that much leverage?

        I think it’s always worth remembering that probably a majority of the House Republican caucus won’t vote for any deal, and that Boehner will be very reluctant to put anything to a vote without such a majority in favor of it.

        How do you get around that? What is this much better deal that was left on the table?

        • JKTHs says:

          I sense that a similar deal with more stimulus and permanently extended refundable credit expansions could have passed along with a debt ceiling increase…then again there’s no way to know. I figure the Dems could have wrung more out of this. Maybe not a “much” better deal, but still a better one. Again, how the debt ceiling plays out will be a large determinant of how good this was.

  12. Jay C says:

    holding firm on tax cuts and daring House Republicans to defy public opinion.

    What a marvelously quaint notion! Does anyone, in 2013 CE actually believe that the most radical of Republicans – who compose something like at least a quarter 27% of the entire House – really give one good flying about “public opinion”? Especially those from the deepest red districts in deep red States whose “public” fully supports and mindlessly cheerleads for their nihilistic obstructionism?

    • FlipYrWhig says:

      Yeah, I don’t get this, or the “leverage” theory that suggests that Republicans crumble for some mystical reason whose time has now expired. Seems to me that even “going over the cliff” results in a situation where some sort of deal has to happen, and the Republicans would go right back to their well-established positions — and, what’s worse, the incoming Republicans will IMHO feel like they need to curry favor with their extremist “base,” whereas outgoing/retiring Republicans this time around were capable of being dogmatic Republicans working to make the Republican-leaning elements of the bill as strong as possible, rather than being Ye Scourges Of All Government obstructing for obstruction’s sake.

      IOW, when otherwise smart people start talking about “leverage,” I don’t follow what they think it actually is. (It sounds like George Costanza trying desperately to get “hand” in his relationship with the pianist, then being surprised that she’s willing to break up with him anyway.)

    • Murc says:

      This.

      Really, I don’t get everyone saying “Republicans raised taxes.” All any Republican has to say is this:

      “A decade ago, we returned to power after years of Democratic governance had left the federal government awash in a sea of tax money. We wanted to return that money to you, the voters, those who earned it; sadly, due to the efforts of a number of Democrats and squishy-soft Republicans, we were only able to pass a comprehensive series of tax cuts with a sunset provision included.

      “It is clear now that this was a mistake; under President Obama and his fellow-travelers, tax rates were scheduled to return to their Clinton-era levels. We fought the good fight on this, but were only able to secure a more just level of taxation for some Americans, rather than all of them. I voted for this package, though my heart was heavy; giving some money back to the American people was better than giving them no money at all.”

      You’d want to clean that up a little; either more or less inflammatory depending on the audience. (And you’ll notice I wrote the whole thing without mentioning ‘Bush’ once.)

      Every FACTUAL statement, as opposed to value judgment, in that statement was true. Well… it was truthy, at least. And that’s all you need.

      • John says:

        What’s the broader point here? Norquist was saying a few months ago that this would count as a tax increase. That he’s changed his mind shows that he realizes he’s on shaky ground.

        • Murc says:

          Well, my broader point is that I’ve been seeing a lot of loose talk along the lines of “Republicans have finally voted for a tax increase, maybe this bodes well for future tax increases.”

          And I’m sort of saying “No, they didn’t, or at least, they won’t admit it, and no, it doesn’t.”

  13. actor212 says:

    The deal was never going to be done until it could be framed as a tax cut, which is why the Republicans wouldn’t even begin to pursue this seriously until after the new year.

    This way, they get to keep their pledge of allegiance AND their pledge to Norquist.

  14. mds says:

    From National Journal:

    Reid’s office had suggested that another counteroffer would come in the morning, but the clock ticked to afternoon without one. Instead, Reid’s office told McConnell’s at about 1 p.m. that the majority leader was done with the back and forth. “At this stage, we are not able to make a counteroffer,” Reid announced soon after on the Senate floor.
    .
    Reid was playing hardball. With polls showing that the public was far more likely to blame congressional Republicans than the president if the nation jumped off the fiscal cliff – and billions in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts went into effect – Reid rightfully knew that McConnell wanted a deal – and badly.
    .
    Reid felt that he’d compromised enough, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide with knowledge of the discussions and the senator’s thinking. Besides, if no accord was reached, Obama and Reid had said they would push the president’s plan to stop tax hikes for those earning below $250,000 and extend unemployment insurance to the floor. Republicans could block that and be responsible for everyone’s taxes spiking at their own peril.
    .
    [...]
    .
    McConnell’s negotiating options with Reid had narrowed. He could either let Congress veer off the cliff, take Reid’s latest offer, or accept the president’s tax-hike package for those earning more than $250,000. Instead, McConnell sought a familiar and friendlier face across the negotiating table – his old colleague Joe Biden. He called and left a message to open talks with the vice president.
    .
    “We have yet to receive a response to our good-faith offer. I am concerned about the lack of urgency here. I think we all know we are running out of time,” McConnell said on Sunday of his talks with Reid. Then he revealed on the floor that he’d called Biden “to see if he could help jump-start the negotiations on his side.”
    .
    [...]
    .
    The final package, which cleared the Senate in the early hours of 2013, also included concessions that Reid had refused, including a delay of the automatic cuts, known as the sequester, for only two months instead of at least a year.

    If true, it means we have the White House to thank for avoiding disaster, since Reid was still clinging naively to the notions that Democrats held the leverage, that he had McConnell’s measure, and that setting up sequester expiration to coincide with the debt ceiling fight was fucking stupid. Too bad it was apparently our Senate Majority Leader’s first trip to the rodeo.

  15. David W. says:

    It’s sort of odd to see the line espoused here that if only Obama had gone all in (including using the Bully Pulpit I suppose) he would have gotten a much bigger win. I think if Obama had taken a maximalist position it would have played into the Republican’s hands by giving their no-compromise on taxes position political cover. Tax cuts are always going to be more popular than tax increases and getting the increases on the top brackets that Obama and Reid did without giving on social programs is a decent, if not ideal outcome.

  16. lw says:

    correct me if I’m wrong but since the tax bracket affected by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts was $388k+ didn’t Obama basically only compromised by $62k of income?

    The $250k number seemed more like a messaging/framing issue than a policy point; there was no $250k level involved in the tax cuts or their expiration.

  17. The bit about “emboldening” reminds me of the psychobabble version of foreign policy that the neocons used to put forth when they were in their “Everything is Munich” phase.

    “Practicalities, shmacticalities! Me wanna tuff guy!”

  18. Anon21 says:

    Here’s what I’m wondering. Even if Obama goes with the segnoirage option or the constitutional option, what’s to stop the GOP from just refusing to pass any more continuing resolutions until they get their precious spending cuts? It almost seems like the debt ceiling is the less dangerous weapon in comparison to normal appropriations, precisely because it’s all formal (with no effect on the real resources at the government’s disposal) and isn’t drawn from any deep constitutional source.

  19. SN says:

    Thanks to Obama’s collaboration with the Republicans the gutting of the public sector is inevitable now. You simply can’t run a 21% of GDP public sector on a tax base that is 18% of GDP. What Obama has done across the entire budget makes what Clinton did to AFDC nee TANF look like child’s play. If Obama had let the Bush tax cuts expire in December 2010 this disaster could have been avoided. But he didn’t. Obama is opposed to a robust and vibrant public sector. He only wants enough public sector to facilitate business and (where absolutely necessary) fill in in cases of significant market failure. And even here, Obama prefers P3s (public-private partnerships, like charter schools, leasing public infrastructure etc). Instead of pretending he is a sell-out, or has been suckered, or is bad at negotiating (Krugman), or a genius at negotiating (Joe from Lowell here at LGM), people need to accept the fact that in terms of policy Obama is a country club Republican, a friend of big business, a monetarist, a neoliberal, *not* a liberal, not a progressive, and certainly not any kind of Keynesian.

    So, the Republicans are rapidly morphing into a regional rump party of the far right and the Democrats are already the party of the pragmatic wing of big capital (the Democratic party base just hasn’t figured this out yet). Although the constitution does rig the system for two parties, there is no necessary reason they both have to be right wing (even as this has been the case for most of US history).

    • Anon21 says:

      certainly not any kind of Keynesian.

      Sorry, just what kind of Keynesian prioritizes securing tax increases over avoiding spending cuts during a period of severe demand shortfall?

      And you’ve ended up with the Pete Petersons of the world by imagining that fiscal decisions made today are particularly important for the 30-year budget horizon. A tax base of 18% hasn’t been carved in stone by this deal. At some point, there will need to be a decision between further tax increases and cuts to the safety net. That point isn’t now, and it’s because our leaders don’t grasp that that we’re stuck with this stupid fiscal cliff nonsense.

      • Sorry, just what kind of Keynesian prioritizes securing tax increases over avoiding spending cuts during a period of severe demand shortfall?

        A pancake in an FDL tee-shirt?

      • FlipYrWhig says:

        Sorry, just what kind of Keynesian prioritizes securing tax increases over avoiding spending cuts during a period of severe demand shortfall?

        A confused one?

        I suppose the complaint is supposed to be “We need more revenue to fund a robust public sector.” Probably true. But is that “Keynesian”? IANA Economist, but that doesn’t sound right to me.

      • JKTHs says:

        This would be more like a tax base of 19% and we’re not done yet with the tax increases.

    • Since your predictions about what Obama would agree to in this deal have proven to be so incredibly wrong, what, exactly, makes you so confident in your assertions about his intentions?

    • and certainly not any kind of Keynesian.

      You all understand how the temporary revenue shortfall, compared to spending, that SN described at the beginning of his comment proves that Obama isn’t a Keynesian, right?

      • FlipYrWhig says:

        Apparently SN thinks that there isn’t enough money in the coffers to spend on public services. If only there was a way for the government to borrow money at low rates and spend it to improve the economy, that would really help. Maybe a famous economist could have thought of a way to accomplish that.

    • Hogan says:

      AFDC nee TANF

      This is only the most obvious of the things you have backwards.

    • JKTHs says:

      You simply can’t run a 21% of GDP public sector on a tax base that is 18% of GDP

      FYI that’s what we’ve done on average for the past 40 years

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      and certainly not any kind of Keynesian.

      So you’re arguing that a true Keynsian should have pushed through a massive anti-stimulus in 2010? Fascinating.

      Also, in putting so much emphasis on tax rates, you’re making the same sucker bet as Simpson/Bowles. Tax rates aren’t binding on future Congresses, and will last only until the GOP controls the White House and the House. There’s only so much you should be willing to give up to get them. (In your dream scenario, of course, the tax rates last for all of 2 years because Romney wins in 2012.)

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