Matt Towery
As the week unfolded, it appeared that the last days of the lame-duck session of Congress might well end in gridlock. Many issues had been left to the last days, but certainly the biggest issue was whether the so-called "Bush tax cuts" would be extended for not only the "middle class," but for those fabulously wealthy individuals who have the audacity to earn more than $250,000 a year -- the "wealthy."

The Democratic leadership remained steadfastly unwilling to realize that most of the "wealthy" are not Bill Gates-like billionaires, but instead owners of small businesses whose wealth is tenuous. That means, of course, that the jobs of their employees are tenuous, too.

Democrats in the House scheduled a vote only on extending the tax cuts, set to expire at the end of this year, for those under the $250,000 threshold. This ploy was designed to place Republican members in the position of appearing to be against the middle class (a term I despise but use like everyone else). Not surprisingly, Republican leaders said they wouldn't fall for the ploy.

In the Senate, stalemate also appeared likely. GOP members increasingly leaned toward refusing to take up any other legislative matters until the Bush tax cuts and federal spending were addressed.

We all know that so much of what we have seen over the years have been political games and maneuvers played before the public while legislative leaders and whatever administration that occupies the White House hashed things out in the eleventh hour. But sometimes that just doesn't happen. And while it can look messy, such standoffs can have significant benefits later on.

In 1995, Newt Gingrich and his Republican majority in the House not once, but twice forced the temporary shutdown of "nonessential services" of the government. The reaction among the general public was fairly negative -- almost as negative as what was portrayed of their mood by media. It was a bold stand for Gingrich to take and one that made him out to be "the Grinch Who Stole Christmas," given that the second shutdown was about this time of year.

The fact is that no one really suffered. The federal workers who had days off received furlough pay. But the shutdown sent a powerful message. It said that the Republicans in the House wanted to move toward a balanced budget and did not mind suffering some temporary bad public relations to prove it.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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