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Report: Republicans considering Doomsday fiscal strategy!

As a political junkie, I think the big fiscal-cliff showdown between the White House and Republican congressional leader is becoming great fun.

Consider THIS STUFF from Jonathan Karl of ABC News, for example:

Republicans are seriously considering a Doomsday Plan if fiscal cliff talks collapse entirely.  It’s quite simple:  House Republicans would allow a vote on extending the Bush middle class tax cuts (the bill passed in August by the Senate) and offer the President nothing more:  no extension of the debt ceiling, nothing on unemployment, nothing on closing loopholes.  Congress would recess for the holidays and the president would face a big battle early in the year over the debt ceiling.

Two senior Republican elected officials tell me this doomsday plan is becoming the most likely scenario.  A top GOP House  leadership aide confirms the plan is under consideration, but says Speaker Boehner has made no decision on whether to pursue it.

Under one variation of this Doomsday Plan, House Republicans would allow a vote on extending only the middle class tax cuts and Republicans, to express disapproval at the failure to extend all tax cuts, would vote “present” on the bill, allowing it to pass entirely on Democratic votes.

By doing this, Republicans avoid taking blame for tax increases on 98 percent of income tax payers.  As one senior Republican in Congress told me, “You don’t take a hostage you aren’t willing to shoot.”  Republicans aren’t willing to kill the middle class tax cuts, even if extending them alone will make it harder to later extend tax cuts on the wealthy.

HERE‘s another take on the matter:

Two House GOP leadership aides deny the ABC report: one called it “stupid” and said nothing of the sort had been discussed. Another told TPM that he hasn’t heard it being discussed and that Republicans remain committed to “prevent crippling tax rate hikes.”

But the plan may be Republicans’ easiest way out of a conundrum, reflected in Speaker John Boehner’s ”Fox News Sunday” appearance. Obama has been unequivocal about the fact that top marginal tax rates must return to Clinton-era levels, and his position is popular.

If all of the Bush tax cuts expire, even temporarily, the public will blame Republicans, and Obama’s negotiating position will be strengthened. He can introduce a tax plan that accomplishes all of his revenue goals, and it will constitute a major tax cut. Bad news for the GOP — hence the incentive to cave now.

The doomsday plan will create headaches for elected Republicans, who are facing pressure from conservative anti-tax activists to hold the line. They may also have to answer for voting present in the months and years ahead, much as the GOP made issue of Obama’s voting record in the Illinois legislature in 2008.

But the last-ditch option has other important advantages for Republicans. Come 2013, Obama will need to raise the debt limit and pursue other goals such as raising $600 billion in further revenues by limiting tax deductions for people with high incomes, extending unemployment benefits, averting a pay cut for physicians who treat Medicare patients, and avoiding indiscriminate federal spending cuts.

Regarding the debt-ceiling angle mentioned above, I would point out that some legal scholars argue that the debt ceiling is inherently unconstitutional because it violates the 14th Amendment, which declares that the validity of the public debt “shall not be questioned.”

If Obama invokes that constitutional provision and assumes unilateral authority to raise the debt ceiling (which still would not give him authority to spend money without congressional approval), a big showdown before the Supreme Court likely would ensue.

Boy, would that be fun!

 

 

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