Wednesday, January 2, 2013

American Taxpayer Relief Act Passes House; Majority of GOP Members Vote No

Boehner was true to his word.  Despite opposition from a majority of his caucus he brought the Senate bill, the McConnell-Biden Plan, to the floor of the House for an up or down vote.  The American Taxpayer Relief Act passed 257 to 167.  Eighty-five Republicans voted for it; 151 voted no.  For the Democrats, 172 voted yes; 16 voted no.  Boehner and Ryan voted yes.  House majority leader Eric Cantor voted no.  Whether this sets up a Cantor challenge for Boehner's speakership in the 113th Congress is unclear.

Jonathan Weisman has a think piece in today's paper where he gives us a taste of how Republicans are going to spin this in the days ahead: "A party that once disputed that there was any real 'cost' of tax cuts encountered sticker shock when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that enacting them in place of the 'fiscal cliff' provisions would cost $4 trillion over 10 years."  The costliest item in the bill at $1.8 trillion is the permanent fix of the alternative minimum tax.  Republicans are taking a victory lap now that the overwhelming majority of the Bush tax cuts are permanent:
The bill would do much more than head off the automatic tax increases and spending cuts. It would fix in place a tax code that for more than a decade has caused struggles over regular sunset provisions, temporary solutions and fleeting incentives. The bill would finally make permanent five of the six income tax rates created in 2001 by the first Bush tax cut. It would codify Mr. Bush’s successful push, in 2003, to make tax rates on dividends and capital gains equal so that one form of investment income is not favored over the other.
Robert Pear has a "Debt Reckoning" sidebar which points out that the McConnell-Biden Plan repeals the long-term-care-insurance portion of Obamacare. Obama had suspended the program in late 2011 because of cost concerns. This officially kills it.

Peter Baker has a story about grumbling from those of us on the Left who see Obama as a weak negotiator.  Baker ends the piece with a quote from Jared Berstein:
Jared Bernstein, a former economics adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., said Mr. Obama had done what he thought he had to, but he expressed concern that the president might have squandered leverage unless he holds firm in the debate over the debt ceiling. Republicans want to use a vote to raise the ceiling to force Mr. Obama to accept deeper spending cuts, but the president has vowed not to negotiate over the borrowing limit.
“While some appear to think his team folded in the cliff debate, I don’t see it that way,” Mr. Bernstein said. “They saw a plausible path forward, and they took it. My point is it’s only plausible if they really don’t get derailed on the debt ceiling debate.”
Hope springs eternal on the Left that Obama is who we want him to be -- the super-tactician; the forever young community organizer; defender of the poor and downtrodden -- but the actual record shows we can expect more disappointment on the debt ceiling negotiations ahead.

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