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A Solidly Republican House Crashes Down on Grover Norquist

6:54 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

At this point all I can do is laugh when I think about how some of my friends on the far right were naive as to think that sensible Republicans in Congress had failed to heed the message of the 2012 election and the current political realities borne therefrom. The latest development in the fiscal cliff drama show to what degree some on the right have regained their senses and moved back to the center, in the direction of much needed compromise. Quoting political commentator Jennifer Steinhauer: “Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late Tuesday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs. The measure, brought to the House floor less than 24 hours after its passage in the Senate, was approved 257 to 167, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in voting to allow income taxes to rise for the first time in two decades, in this case for the highest-earning Americans…The decision by Republican leaders to allow the vote came despite widespread scorn among House Republicans for the bill, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in the early hours of New Year’s Day. They were unhappy that it did not include significant spending cuts in health and other social programs, which they say are essential to any long-term solution to the nation’s debt.” Clearly and unequivocally the resolution of the fiscal cliff represents a major defeat for Grover Norquist and his Tea Party allies as well as a significant victory for president Obama.

And what of those Republican Congressman who voted to let tax rates rise? Remember how often we’ve been told that almost every Republican in the House had signed Grover Norquist’s “No Tax Pledge.” Quoting Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Habberman: “…given the lopsided Senate vote in favor of the tax-hiking measure, as well as the 85 GOP House members who voted yes, members of the GOP have violated the party’s no-new-taxes orthodoxy for the first time in two decades. It’s a significant concession in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s November defeat and a potentially existential moment for a party that has prided itself on a defiant and dogmatic dislike of tax increases. What remains to be seen is whether that is merely a tactical retreat — bowing to the unique circumstances of the fiscal cliff — or a more meaningful cave-in on the part of Republicans who believe that their anti-tax platform has become politically unsustainable, particularly after a presidential cycle in which the party found itself caricatured as the puppets of the rich and powerful.” Perhaps it was the fact that a large majority of Republican Senators had voted for a tax hike that finally drove home the political reality to the 85 Republican Congressional legislators who decided to follow suit. Why even such staunch conservatives as Congressman Paul Ryan and Senators Patrick J. Toomey and Tom Coburn voted in favor of raising taxes. The fact that, in the face of a growing fiscal crisis, that Republicans voted to raise revenue via tax hikes, should come as no surprise as 2012 election exit polling showed 75% of the voters supported said increases, including a large minority of those who voted for Mitt Romney. Fox News contributor and prominent conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer opined: “This is a complete surrender on everything” and “a rout.” Not surprisingly, Norquist himself appeared on the cable circuit claiming to Anderson Cooper, among others, that the “deal was technically not a pledge violation”, but then what would you expect to hear from a guy who just went off of his own political cliff.

Many on the right have been seen to try to spin this defeat as a tactical maneuver that takes taxes off the table thereby enabling the G.O.P. to be more hard-nosed in dealing with the debt ceiling / spending cuts debate that we’ll be revisiting in a few months. But this too may amount to nothing but wishful thinking. Again quoting Burns and Habberman: “The president’s party, meanwhile, has no intention of easing up on a GOP they believe is in serious disarray. And while Republicans take heart from the hope that they’ll have more leverage in the next showdown, emboldened Democrats say the demand for “balanced” deficit reduction — meaning both spending cuts and new taxes — remains a challenge for their foes. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who advised the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, called the fiscal cliff deal “a band-aid on a serious wound” for Republicans. “The sane wing of the Republican Party recognized the GOP was playing a losing hand badly on taxes in a way that was deeply damaging to the Republican brand,” Garin said. “The Republicans will find themselves in a similar mess going forward if they insist on entitlement cuts while resisting new revenues from closing loopholes and tax breaks for those at the top.”

In the final analysis, when the spin and the political posturing is put aside there is one simple fact that comes through as the dust settles in the aftermath of the fiscal cliff and that is that Barack Obama has just cashed in on some major political capital and the sensible conservatives knew he had it to use and fully intended to use it. Obama ran, in part, on solving the fiscal crisis by raising taxes on the richest among us and won. America had two clear choices to pick from and they didn’t pick the conservative version. Much has been made of the fact that the G.O.P. had held onto the House but they only did so as a result of redistricting. In terms of absolute votes cast for those running for Congress, across the nation as a whole, “Democratic candidates for Congress won 1.1 million more votes than Republicans, according to a tally of the popular vote kept by David Wasserman, the House editor of The Cook Political Report.” The Republican leadership in Congress knows that winning as a result of map making means a lot less politically than does winning by popular appeal and presently the G.O.P. ranks near the low end of its historic popularity. More importantly, the American people have demanded compromise and they indicated that they are clearly fed up with Tea Party obstruction on Capitol Hill. This had to be a motivating factor for Republicans as it is they, not Obama and the Democrats who would have been blamed for the country’s sliding back into a recession. In the end President Obama wound up giving less in the way of concessions than he would have just two weeks ago when he bargained with John Boehner in search of a deal and dramatically less than he would have back in 2011 when he and the Speaker were on the verge of a “Grand Bargain.” Such is the measure of the political shift that has taken place since the Tea Party victories in 2010 and Obama’s re-election this past November.

Steven J. Gulitti
1/2/2013

Sources:
Jennifer Steinhauer: “Divided House Passes Tax Deal in End to Latest Fiscal Standoff”; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/us/politics/house-takes-on-fiscal-cliff.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ref=todayspaper

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor Split On Fiscal Cliff Deal”; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/john-boehner-eric-cantor_n_2395593.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=010213&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureTitle&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei: “BEHIND THE CURTAIN — Why the GOP caved: The politics are horrible on the backside of the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/playbook/

“Tea party backers swallow a bitter pill in ‘cliff’ bill”; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cliff-bill-is-a-bitter-pill-for-houses-tea-party-adherents-to-swallow/2013/01/01/5345286e-544d-11e2-8e84-e933f677fe68_story.html

“GOP anti-tax policy goes over the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/gop-anti-tax-policy-goes-over-the-cliff-85657.html

Charles Krauthammer: “Cliff deal a ‘rout”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/krauthammer-cliff-deal-surrender-85656.html?ml=po_r

“Why President Obama, Mitch McConnell took the deal”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/why-mcconnell-obama-took-the-deal-85655.html#ixzz2Gr6BLtPZ

“Obama hails tax bill, warns GOP not to pick fight on debt ceiling”; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/275123-obama-hail-cliff-deal-but-warns-gop-on-debt-ceiling

“How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House”; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/us/po

The Growing Revolt Against Grover Norquist

1:57 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Grover Norquist - Caricature

Grover Norquist - Caricature

Two weeks ago I penned a short piece titled “Grover Norquist Collateral Casualty of 2012?” where I broached the question of whether or not Norquist would become a casualty as a result of the coming fiscal cliff negotiations and where I said, “…look for Grover Norquist to politically take a major hit in the resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis.” The way things are playing out I think that we can pretty much assume that Norquist is already taking on water and his support and influence seems to be fading with each passing day. Let’s review a few recent developments, staring with this:”Grover Norquist: Washington Enemy No. 1 :The man who enforces the no-new-taxes pledge is under fire like never before. Why he still expects Republicans will hold the line”; To wit: “Republicans are facing an avalanche of pressure from the White House, the media and even many on Wall Street to abandon their antitax principles to avoid a “fiscal cliff…The pressure on Republicans to repudiate this oath has never been as intense as it is now. Mr. Obama is claiming a voter mandate to raise taxes, while the media and liberals are declaring that the days of “Norquistism,” as they derisively call it, are over. A New York Times story this week claimed that more Republicans are ready to violate the pledge. After the 2011 debt-ceiling debacle, the election losses and the prospect of getting blamed for going over the fiscal cliff, the conventional wisdom is that the GOP has no choice but to fold…I remind Mr. Norquist that the election exit polls show that voters, for the first time in two decades, favor higher taxes on the rich.”

In the Senate, several prominent Republicans have already broken ranks with Norquist publicly, Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans — Republicans should put revenue on the table…We’re this far in debt. We don’t generate enough revenue. Capping deductions will help generate revenue. Raising tax rates will hurt job creation…So I agree with Grover, we shouldn’t raise rates. But, I think Grover is wrong when it comes to [saying] we can’t cap deductions and buy down debt…I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs, but I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.” Tom Coburn (R-OK): “I’m all for the very wealthy paying more taxes…Senate Republicans — and many House Republicans — have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s strict interpretation of his own pledge, a reading that requires them to defend every loophole and spending program hidden in the tax code…As a result, rather than forcing Republicans to bow to him, Mr. Norquist is the one who is increasingly isolated politically.” John McCain (R-AZ) said Sunday, “that he would support limiting deductions.” Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) who said last week that “the pledge is outdated and unhelpful for reducing the national debt…I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.” Bob Corker (R-TN): “I’m not obligated on the pledge…I made Tennesseans aware, I was just elected, the only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve, when I’m sworn in this January.” The senior Republican Senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander said that the only oath he’s taken is his oath of office.” Regarding taxes Alexander said’ “I think Republicans have done plenty of talking about revenues on the table…We’re ready. It’s time for the president to step up.”

Of even greater significance is the fact that the defections have now moved beyond the Senate, where Republicans are in the minority, to the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Even fiscal hawk Eric Cantor (R-VA) has publicly distanced himself from Norquist, “When I go to the constituents that have reelected me, it is not about that pledge…It really is about trying to solve problems.” While Cantor, like Graham isn’t a fan of raising the tax rates he is unequivocally in favor of increasing revenues and he doesn’t necessarily tie that to matching adjustments in deductions as required by the Norquist pledge. Peter King (R-NY) said, “everything should be on the table in negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff.” Jeff Flake (R-AZ): “The only pledge I’d sign is a pledge to sign no more pledges…We’ve got to ensure that we go back and represent our constituents in a way — I believe in limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility. I don’t want higher taxes. But no more pledges.” Quoting the political magazine “The Hill” on the comments of Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK): “Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a respected party strategist and former chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, became the most prominent House Republican to suggest that the GOP do what has long been unthinkable within the party: lock in the George W. Bush-era tax rates for annual incomes up to $250,000 without simultaneously extending them for top earners.” Diane White (R-TN): “I answer to my constituents, not to a pledge.”
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True Republican Mavericks‏

1:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Retiring Republican Senator from Maine,  Olympia Snowe seems to be taking a parting shot at the right wing extremism currently infecting the G.O.P. She recently said that she will not necessarily give her $2.36 million dollar war chest to another Republican. Quoting an article from the Kennebec Journal “outgoing Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) may be using her campaign cash to aid candidates of her choice rather than her party. In a letter written last week but released Tuesday, Snowe told campaign donors that she planned to give leftover cash to candidates in the “sensible center” rather than pledging that money to Republicans, signaling that the eventual GOP nominee may not be moderate enough for her taste.”

Olympia Snowe. Photo by John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV.

Snowe’s profile in courage in standing up to radical rightwing extremism was picked up by the leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a guy named Matt Canter, who opined: “Mitch McConnell and national Republicans have disenfranchised moderates in Maine and across the country…So it should not be a surprise that Sen. Snowe is questioning whether to give her money to support the extremist, right-wing Republican agenda.”

Few would deny that Olympia Snowe has the courage of her convictions and she can only be seen as a leader of what’s left of the “sensible” right. Is she a fading voice in the wilderness or is she one of the first among an emerging element of Republicans who are seeking to “take their party back” from the political amateurs on the far right? Could it be that those radicals who may have shot their bolt in 2010 and whom have since proven only that they can succeed in obstructing government when the American people want bipartisan compromise and results have created an opening for the sensible conservatives to reassert themselves?

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12:38 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Against the backdrop of heightened political rhetoric among conservatives about not being willing to raise tax revenues as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling, there is a growing acknowledgement among many Republicans in Washington as to the ultimate need to increase revenues. While many on Capitol Hill continue to parrot conservative talking points about not increasing tax revenues, the political leadership within the G.O.P. and outside the Republican Party is sounding more and more amenable to some form of raising revenue, even if it is structured as tax reform.

In an interview that came in under the radar following the collapse of the debt talks chaired by Vice President Biden, Republican insider and former congressman Vin Weber appeared on the PBS News Hour to discuss the emerging cracks in Republican opposition to raising taxes to curb the deficit. This controversy is clearly evident in the ongoing public spate between Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) over what actually constitutes a tax revenue increase and the necessity of increasing revenues. Weber stated of Republicans engaged in deficit negotiations: “And I think, if they’re allowed to define, on their own terms, what constitutes a tax increase that opens the door to a broad tax reform that might broaden the base by closing loopholes and eliminating deductions and credits and exemptions, probably coupled with a reduction in top rates to spur economic growth, but resulting in a net tax increase.” As you may recall, Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform had circulated a Taxpayer Protection Pledge to conservative politicians for their signature ahead of the 2010 elections which many, particularly members of the Tea Party, signed. The Pledge includes the following wording “ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and…TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.” Thus the pledge, a document of the utmost importance on the far right, not only prohibits tax increases; it opposes any effort to raise revenue through the elimination of loopholes, deductions and credits “unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

In the time that has elapsed since Weber’s PBS interview Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) has approached the White House with a proposal for $ 1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. According to White house officials, “Mr. Boehner suggested that he was open to the possibility of $1 trillion or more in new revenue that would be generated by addressing tax issues already raised in the talks, like killing breaks for the oil and gas industry, eliminating ethanol subsidies and ending preferential treatment for corporate jets. But those changes would fall far short of the revenue goal, and the source of the rest of the money would, under what they described as Mr. Boehner’s proposal, be decided by Congress through a review of tax law changes. One official said some revenue could be generated by allowing Bush-era tax cuts for affluent Americans to expire at the end of 2012, which would produce hundreds of billions of dollars, though those savings would be offset by the costs of retaining lower rates for those below the income threshold.” Eric Cantor (R-VA), who had walked out of the Biden talks and who has previously been a staunch opponent of raising revenues was quoted on PBS on July 6 as saying that he was willing to talk about closing loopholes and his fellow Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) likewise was quoted on the same program, “I’m open to tax reform. We need to do it broadly… Everybody’s going to have to contribute to it in one way or another.” Why even Tea Party backed Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) was on the news this evening saying that he was not necessarily opposed to raising revenues as long as it didn’t involve an increase in tax rates.

There is one other factor to consider in this whole discussion and that’s the current opinion of the American people. The latest Pew Research Polling on the subject: “Public Wants Changes in Entitlements, Not Changes in Benefits; GOP Divided Over Benefit Reductions”, reveals an American public that on a two to one basis feels that keeping entitlements the way they are is more important than reducing the deficit. Likewise similar levels of support are evident for other issues such as Medicare cost responsibilities and whether or not poor people should have their Medicaid benefits taken away. In fact if you go inside the numbers what you see is that even less affluent Republicans are now opposed to reductions in entitlements. While the political class and its attendant punditry are embroiled in discussing what to cut and where to raise revenues, the American people, even though they know that some type of reform is required, have expressed an emphatic desire to leave their benefits largely unchanged. Thus the Republican leadership in Washington has to maneuver between a public that wants it’s entitlements left alone, a Tea Party faction that has yet to understand that compromise is part of governing and the prospect of throwing our economy and the world economy along with it, into the tailspin that would result if we were actually to default on our Treasury obligations by failing to raise the debt ceiling.

The bottom line on the issue of raising revenues as part and parcel of a debt deal is that opposing such measures is a lose-lose proposition. Republicans came to power in the House in 2010 with the idea that getting the debt under control was one of the most important issues facing the nation today. Few reputable economists have taken the position that the debt could be reduced by spending cuts alone, thus revenue increases of some sort are required. To forgo increased revenue is to fail in the effort to reduce the debt, which for the G.O.P. is a loser. However, to consider revenue increases after having campaigned on no new tax increases of any type is a loser as well and as such any debt deal compromise that includes revenue increases can only be seen as a setback for the Republican Party. But beyond the fortunes of the Republican leadership are those of the Tea Party movement. Any debt deal that contains a significant increase in federal revenues can only be seen as a major setback for the Tea Party movement as well seeing as opposition to increased federal revenue has been a major reason behind the movement since its arrival on the political landscape.

Steven J. Gulitti
7/7/11

Sources:

Sen. Cornyn to Obama: Take Tax Increases Off the Table: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec11/budget_07-05.html

Cracks Emerge in Republican Opposition to Raising Taxes to Curb Deficit: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june11/goptaxes_06-24.html

Americans For Tax Reform: Taxpayer Protection Pledge;

http://www.atr.org/taxpayer-protection-pledge

Obama to Push for Wider Deal With G.O.P. on Deficit Cuts; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/us/politics/07fiscal.html?emc=eta1

Lawmakers Remain Divided on Deficit Fundamentals as Deadline Draws Closer; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec11/deficit_07-06.html

Public Wants Changes in Entitlements, Not Changes in Benefits; GOP Divided Over Benefit Reductions;http://people-press.org/2011/07/07/public-wants-changes-in-entitlements-not-change-in-benefits/

Boehner Must Navigate Rocky Road to a Budget; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/us/politics/25fiscal.html?emc=eta1

G.O.P. Throwing the “Birthers” Under the Bus?

5:04 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Well it seems as if the Republican Party has come to a fork in the road as it relates to the issue of Barack Obama’s birth and the decision they have made suggests that they are ultimately willing to throw the “Birthers” under the bus. It’s a move motivated by the fact that the G.O.P. must ultimately protect its brand name and image and the “Birthers” serve only to tarnish the reputation and integrity of the party. The whole issue turns upon the fact that there aren’t enough Republicans or Democrats for that matter for either party to win an election based on its rank and file membership alone. With the last three elections having been decided by independent voters, the G.O.P. can’t possibly risk alienating that segment of the electorate if it hopes to remain in control of the House or make gains in the Senate or take the presidency in 2012.

Its generally believed that most independent voters are turned off by the birther debate and polling results tend to prove that as well. According to political pollster Geoff Garin when it comes to the risk posed by the “Birthers”: “It’s a real challenge for the Republican Party and virtually every Republican candidate for president… If it’s not handled well, all-important independent voters might see Republicans as extreme or irrelevant…The big question about the birthplace issue is the extent to which it drives a wedge within the Republican Party” and turns off independents in November 2012.” Thus we can clearly see that the G.O.P. knows that it’s very survival as a legitimate party is now at stake and I believe that as the election of 2012 grows nearer, the denunciation of the “Birthers” will only grow louder.
 
The list of believers now includes such stalwart Republicans like Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell,  Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty and even Michele Bachmann. In fact even Sarah Palin stated: “I think that he was born in Hawaii because there was a birth announcement put in the newspaper.” Governor Brewer who may have issued the most dire warning among conservatives to date said on  CNN “The Birther issue was leading the country down a path of destruction.” It would seem that the political tide has turned against the “Birthers” and soon they too will be relegated to the same trash bin of history where the “truthers” currently reside. The “truthers” as you will recall are those who believed that George W. Bush was behind the 9/11 terror attacks. Well at least they will now have the “Birthers” to keep them company.

S.J.G

4/26/11 
 
 
 
Sources:
 
‘Birther’ Claims Force GOP Leaders To Take A Stand
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/23/birther-claims-force-gop-_0_n_852859.html
 
Polling Report.com: Obama’s Birthplace: http://www.pollingreport.com/obama_ad.htm
 
Jan Brewer: Birther Issue Leading Country ‘Down A Path Of Destruction’
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/25/jan-brewer-birther-issue-path-of-destruction_n_853596.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=042611&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief
 
CNN Videos for Jan Brewer; http://topics.cnn.com/topics/jan_brewer
 
George Stephanopoulos And Michele Bachmann ‘Settle’ The Obama Birth Certificate Issue
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/20/stephanopoulos-bachmann-obama-birth-certificate_n_851529.html