Our Three-Party System

“At times — particularly when action is required — it’s as if there’s a Democratic Party, a Republican Party, and a Tea Party; and the only coalition sturdy enough to reliably avoid crises is one comprised overwhelmingly of Democrats along with a few dozen Republicans.

“That’s how the fiscal cliff bill passed. That’s how the supplemental approps for Sandy victims cleared the House yesterday. And more and more it appears as if that’s how the debt limit will ultimately be increased. It sounds strange given how fiercely Republicans have fought President Obama for the past four years, but we seem to have reached a point where an uncomfortable center-left coalition governs the country when Congress must act.”  Emphasis added.

From “An Uncomfortable Alliance,” Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo

Quote of the Day 2

“The debt ceiling fight of 2011 represented a kind of zenith (if you can call it that) of Tea Party craziness, intransigence, and hostage taking.  Obama lost that battle, but he bounced back and won the presidency.  Now, even more so than the fiscal cliff battle, this year’s debt ceiling fight is shaping up as a kind of epic final confrontation – perhaps the Tea Party’s last chance to force Obama to do what the American people emphatically declared in the election that [they]don’t want, i.e., solve the country’s fiscal problems primarily by dramatically shrinking government, unraveling the safety net, and sparing the rich more sacrifice.”

Greg Sargent, “The Tea Party’s last stand?,” WaPo

Quote of the Day

“What’s more, the right thinks long-term, and if you look at the long-term, the whole ugly ‘fiscal cliff’ standoff was a win-win for conservatives, no matter what their passing defeats in this week’s deal. The more Washington looks dysfunctional, the more it sows dissatisfaction with the very idea of a Federal government. Yes, Democrats and the White House can argue that polls show that the Republicans would be getting most of the blame if Congress couldn’t reach agreement on the ‘fiscal cliff.’ But that’s short-term liberal wishful thinking. Long-term, this intractable dispute has undermined Americans’ faith in government, period, and the voters’ plague-on-all-your-houses view of Washington is overall a resounding ideological win for a party that wants to dismantle government, the GOP.”  Emphasis added.

Frank Rich, New York Magazine

McConnell Draws Battle Lines

President Obama said that he won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling and that he will be looking for more tax increases (through tax reform).  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a new op-ed telling the Prez to fuhgeddaboudit and that the fiscal cliff deal “was the last word on taxes.”

McConnell says the debt ceiling won’t get raised without negotiations on spending cuts:

“Now the conversation turns to cutting spending on the government programs that are the real source of the nation’s fiscal imbalance. And the upcoming debate on the debt limit is the perfect time to have that discussion.

“We simply cannot increase the nation’s borrowing limit without committing to long overdue reforms to spending programs that are the very cause of our debt.”

So now we have more of a chasm than a cliff.  Let’s see Biden solve this one.

Not Budging from the Bottom of the Cliff

If we needed any further proof that markets are irrational, we see it today in the stock market’s rise of 308 points.  Yes, the deal reached on the fiscal cliff was better than nothing, but only slightly.  It postponed much more than it solved.

The markets can climb if they want to, but as for me, I’m going to sit here at the bottom of the cliff.  I see no point in trekking back up only to tumble again in a couple of months.

Once Tim Geithner can no longer find spare change in Treasury’s couch cushions, we’ll hit the debt ceiling in a couple of months.  I laughed last night when the President said he won’t negotiate on that.   He’s going to hold his breath till the world’s economy turns blue?

The sequester that got “delayed” in this deal for 60 days will come up again at the same time as the debt ceiling.

Finally, the latest “continuing resolution” we limp along with in lieu of a real budget expires at the end of March.  So another fight.

I expect the Tea Party will make the coming battles over the debt ceiling, sequester, and budget make the one we just concluded look like, well, like a tea party.

Fiscal Cliff Deal Passes House, Prez to Speak Tonight

The House has just passed the Senate’s fiscal cliff deal.  The President is going to speak at 11:20 EST.

The final vote was 257-167.

There were 172 Democrats in favor, and 16 Democrats against.

There were 85 Republicans in favor, and 151 Republicans against.  John Boehner voted in favor.

Three Democrats and five Republicans didn’t vote.

House To Vote

The House will vote later tonight on the Senate fiscal cliff bill.

There will not be amendments to add spending cuts, it will be a straight up-or-down vote.

Given Dem support, the bill should pass and go to President Obama for his signature.

The House GOP will just shift the fight to the debt ceiling and the delayed sequester.

House GOP Says Not So Fast

The House GOP has decided to amend the Senate fiscal cliff bill to add spending cuts.  They are figuring out if they can get enough votes for this plan.  If they can, they will vote tonight.

The bill would then go back to the Senate, but action would have to wait for the new Congress, which takes over on Thursday.

House Republicans Are Revolting

Yes, aren’t they?

GOP House members are furious that the Senate deal has tax increases, but no spending cuts.

According to the NYT*, Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he won’t vote for the deal.  It’s bad for Boehner if his #2 guy won’t support it.

Spencer Bachus of Alabama expects the bill to be amended and go back to the Senate, which would effectively kill it for this Congress, which ends Thursday at noon.

So will they stand and fight now or live to fight another day over the debt ceiling and the postponed sequester?

*  “G.O.P. Anger Over Tax Deal Endangers Final Passage,” Jennifer Steinhauer, and Jonathan Weisman

Quote of the Day

“If the White House is able to pocket this revenue and then extract a 1:1 match, or something close to it, for any further spending cuts, administration officials are liable to end up looking quite smart. But if, as Republicans believe and some Democrats fear, the White House folds when confronted with the debt ceiling and agrees to big entitlement cuts in return for few or no revenues, this deal will be seen as the moment when the White House blinked and traded away the guaranteed revenue of the fiscal cliff for a lowball offer from the GOP.”

Ezra Klein, WaPo

This mini-deal is a battle, not the war, which may be the reason it can pass the House.  It’s impossible to say who won and who lost until we resolve the debt ceiling and the delayed sequester.  Tougher fights to come.