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Friday, December 21, 2012

 
Fiscal cliff notes 12/21: Steny scares me

by digby

Obviously, I don't know what's going to happen with the fiscal cliff and neither does anyone else.  But watching TV this morning I'm seeing an extremely disturbing trend among the Villagers who now claim the best outcome to be Boehner allowing the Democrats to pass Obama's proposal with only a few Republicans. I would have to assume it would be the end of Boehner's speakership, but maybe he wants to go out in a blaze of glory. Having Democrats passing a bill not only raising taxes but cutting social security would be a real legacy to be proud of.

Unfortunately, Steny Hoyer was on Andrea Mitchell this morning saying that he and Pelosi would whip for Democratic votes if Boehner could come up with an agreement and deliver a few GOP votes (didn't specify how many.)

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One can only hope that this is a Village fever dream and they have no real reason to believe it's possible, but are instead engaging in their favorite fantasy where the alleged "grown-ups" come to the rescue to screw the American people in an act of so-called shared sacrifice which will not impact them in the least. But it's scary that Hoyer brought up the TARP.  If they've convinced themselves that the world really is coming to an end if we go over the "cliff", that dynamic may well be in play. So what happens with the "cliff"? I'm guessing we're going over it anyway, no thanks to the typically idiotic Democratic leadership. As Noam Scheiber explains in this excellent post, there are only two alternatives to prevent it, neither of which are likely (we hope).  First, he points out that  the White House have to offer even more than they already have to get a majority of Republicans on board any plan, so that's a non-starter. Short of giving up the tax cuts completely they won't play. (And even that would probably not be enough --- they want human sacrifice in large numbers.) The second possibility, as we're seeing possibly take shape today, the Democrats could step up and deliver the majority of the votes. (And I would have to guess that in order to get enough Republican votes they will almost certainly have to give up even more.)  Here's how it would work:
Boehner passes a bill with a rump group of Republicans and a majority of House Democrats. There are actually two ways this could happen. First, Boehner could essentially accept the offer on the table from Obama, perhaps with a tiny symbolic concession that lets him claim he squeezed more out of the president. Or Boehner could take up the bill the Senate has already passed, which extends the Bush tax cuts for families making under $250,000 per year and lets them expire above that.
I think the probability of that last is vanishingly small, but maybe he's a patriot. The good news is that Boehner is highly unlikely to fall on his sword for any reason and at this point it's hard to see how he keeps his position if he does this under any circumstances. We'd all better hope his desire to remain Speaker is greater than his desire to make this deal. Otherwise, we're about to see the Republicans very deftly getting the Democrats to cut their own throats.  And lest you forget: on January 1st, all the tax cuts expire, the deficit shrinks and this whole argument looks very, very different. Any "deal" that gets made by this White House and passed with a Democratic majority is a deal they want, not one they have no choice in making.


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