Fiscal cliff: How much trouble will House Dems cause?

posted at 3:01 pm on January 1, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

The answer’s probably not much (and it may be a moot point anyway), but in the interest of keeping you entertained with this maudlin march to a deal that means nothing, let’s entertain the possibility, shall we? In D.C. last night, as the Senate prepared to vote on the fiscal cliff deal, the various staffers and operatives on the ideological wings of both sides who populate New Year’s parties where people talk about fiscal cliff deals were fantasizing about a meeting of conservative and liberal minds to torpedo the deal.

The possibility of defecting Tea Partiers will, of course, get all the press and the public pressure, but the House Progressive Caucus has 70-some members, and they’re not happy:

Their acolyte has given them some cover. Paul Krugman doesn’t love the deal, but does his part in assuring liberals that none of their orthodoxies have been violated in the name of something so crazy as sustainable budgeting. He’s mostly right. But he also notes true unhappiness on the left and sounds a warning shot (low-capacity magazine pop gun) over upcoming debt ceiling debates:

So why the bad taste in progressives’ mouths? It has less to do with where Obama ended up than with how he got there. He kept drawing lines in the sand, then erasing them and retreating to a new position. And his evident desire to have a deal before hitting the essentially innocuous fiscal cliff bodes very badly for the confrontation looming in a few weeks over the debt ceiling.

If Obama stands his ground in that confrontation, this deal won’t look bad in retrospect. If he doesn’t, yesterday will be seen as the day he began throwing away his presidency and the hopes of everyone who supported him.

All of this presumably has something to do with the fact that Vice President Joe Biden was brought into the House Democratic caucus meeting today, which went for longer than an hour, with reinforcement refreshments, while Uncle Joe answered Q&A. Or, was it a filibuster?

It looks like that meeting just broke up, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Biden are supposed to hold a brief press availability, so we’ll have a better idea as people trickle out where the caucus stands. (Correction: The caucus meeting let out a 3 p.m., three hours after it started.) Despite their anger— and they have plenty over the fact that estate taxes, marginal tax rates for those between $200K and $400K, and every other tax being too low—I’m sure one nudge from the White House, even in the form of Biden, is about all it takes to get most progressives in line. We’ll see.

It’s worth noting Rep. Xavier Becerra, a member of the House Progressive Caucus, escorted Biden into the meeting in his new capacity as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Becerra replaced Rep. Jim Larson, a member of the more moderate, pro-growth New Democrat Coalition. Weird how we never hear about House Democrats moving ever-further left, huh?

Are y’all ready for this?

Update: Pelosi, blah, blah, blah.

Update: Democrats will wait for the deal to unravel on the Republican side and pretend they’ve got all their ducks in a row, but they don’t:

Political Wire:

President Obama’s fiscal cliff deal with Republicans “has touched off a fresh wave of grievance among disappointed liberals who complained that he caved in on taxes and sent a signal that he would ultimately surrender on other priorities as he prepared to open his second term,” the New York Times reports.

“While most Democratic senators went along with the compromise in an early-morning vote on Tuesday, activists, labor leaders and liberal economists issued a harsh barrage against the deal. The president, they said, squandered his election victory by allowing too many wealthy Americans to keep income and estate tax cuts that otherwise would have expired.”


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