So it appears that the House and Senate will hold votes on extending the tax cuts up to the first $250,000 of income, and letting the rest expire. But they don’t appear to be particularly hopeful that such a plan will actually pass.
“I think there’s a reality here which is that while it might be best to continue the middle-class tax cuts and raise taxes on higher income people, the votes are not there to do that,” said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who caucuses with the Democrats. “I think everybody’s got to deal with a stark reality which is, are we going to leave here knowing that we haven’t come to an agreement and that everybody’s taxes are going to go up Jan. 1?”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would like to schedule competing votes on the Senate floor. One would be on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s bill to make all the tax cuts permanent; the other would be on a Democratic plan to extend only the middle class tax cuts. Neither is expected to pass.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she plans to hold a similar vote on extending the middle-class tax cuts in early December.
I’ve been pretty confident that gridlock will prevail here, at least until the next Congress. When some members of the caucus are saying “wait until the deficit commission reports,” when it’s unclear whether they’ll come to any consensus either, you know that there’s a lot of buck-passing going on here. The votes may be useful just to show the priorities of each party, but they don’t appear to help arrive at a solution.
Let’s stipulate that the world will not end if all the tax cuts expire. The 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts did not work in their intended purpose of growing the economy or jobs. Just ask Mike Pence. If they expire, it places a burden on middle-class families, not one I particularly want to see. But the end result would be a tax system that is more progressive, where the wealthy pay more of their fair share.
Ezra Klein seems to think that Democrats should pair the tax cuts with unemployment insurance or increasing the debt limit. It seems to me that they could do that after the tax cuts expire as easily as before. They control the White House and the Senate. Their leverage does not end, particularly since they’re not likely to rule the filibuster out of existence. All it would take is 41 votes to not move forward.
Now, Grover Norquist seems to think that Republicans will benefit from a government shutdown this time around. But he’s fanatical, and he probably thought the same thing in 1995. It didn’t happen. Norquist probably has more juice in the House GOP caucus than John Boehner at this point, but Boehner does not want a shutdown. He’s mindful of how the public would react; they naturally associate cruel measures of this sort with Republicans, and Republicans won the last election. So there’s plenty of time for negotiation, if you want to use the tax cuts as a bargaining chip.
I think a shutdown is a serious danger, no question. But it’s a problem for the Republicans to solve, not the Democrats necessarily. Welcome to governing, GOP.