What a difference a couple of weeks — and a historic “shellacking” in a midterm election — makes. In October, John Boehner had to answer whether he would accept extensions on only the tax rates for middle- and working-class earners if Democrats insisted on blocking extensions for the top tax bracket rates. Today, Boehner announced that not only will he insist on extensions of the current tax rates, but that those extensions be made permanent:
“Extending all of the current tax rates and making them permanent will reduce the uncertainty,” said Representative John Boehner, in line take control as House speaker in January, when asked about potential compromise when he meets with Obama next week.
The GOP feels as if they have a wind at their backs on this issue, and the midterm elections certainly seem to corroborate that. Democrats continue to paint this position as an endorsement of tax cuts, but that message has failed to work. For one thing, it’s simply false; Republicans are arguing to keep the status quo, not for tax cuts. Voters are also not enthusiastic about soaking the rich while needing them to invest in growth-producing activities, and most people understand that raising taxes in a recessionary environment is counterproductive, especially for a Congress with no discipline whatsoever on spending.
These positions aren’t new, of course, and the election was fought in large part on the basis of these issues. What’s new is that Republican leadership has firmed up on the issue of tax rates, and that Democrats may not have a lot of room to maneuver. They have to address that and pass a budget before December 31st, with a week or more off for Thanksgiving. Their ability to act in a lame-duck session could be seriously hampered by Republican unity on this point, especially in the Senate, which got more conservative with the addition of Mark Kirk and even Democrat Joe Manchin in West Virginia. Combine that with all of the Democrats in the Senate looking nervously at their prospects for re-election in 2012, and the GOP has a big advantage heading into the debate.
Boehner also picked up a little easy credibility on accountability and fiscal discipline with his pledge to fly commercial as House Speaker:
There’s been a lot of controversy about the expense of and use of military aircraft to get Speakers of the House around in recent years — especially when Nancy Pelosi asked for an upgrade (and because she’s a she). That is apparently about to end. Presumptive Speaker Boehner just told reporters he’s flown commercial for 20 years and will continue to do so as Speaker.
CBS helpfully tossed this issue out to the electorate with less than a week to go before the election, and it added to the sense of arrogance and entitlement Democrats in Congress had acquired through the ObamaCare and Porkulus debates. It costs Boehner nothing (except air fare) to differentiate himself from Democrats by flying with the hoi polloi in the friendly, non-military skies, and especially eschewing Pelosi’s Friends & Family Program.
This, of course, poses a big question to Democrats about to put Pelosi back in charge of their House caucus. Do they really want to put themselves in position to be arguing for a resumption of Air Pelosi and its Friends & Family service as a consequence of voting for Democrats in 2012?