There was great national drama. The president's men and the congressional leadership went to Andrews Air Force Base to negotiate the "historic" solution to our deficits, and a polarized nation watched. The deal was cut in the Oval Office a few weeks later, and only Newt walked out rather than support the tax hike.
But despite the fix being in, the House defeated the deal when Newt led 105 Republicans in a rebellion against it -- joined by liberal Democrats who opposed it from their point of view. Conservative and liberal voters were pleased with the performances of their members.
But that time, the Washington establishment held. The leaderships and the president diddled with the details; Panetta and the others made their speeches urging members to forget principles and constituents and vote "the national interest"; and on a second vote, Oct. 28, the tax hike passed.
Before the vote, Ed Rollins, leading the National Republican Congressional Committee, split with the president and advised members, "Do not hesitate to distance yourself from the president." He later wrote: "My job was electing Republicans to the House. George Bush and his tax deal made that impossible. Now my job was to see how many we could save. ... Guys who didn't think they had a race were all of a sudden fighting for their lives. ... (We thereby) saved 15 incumbent seats that otherwise would have gone down the drain."
Now, in September 2009, following a summer of public fury at the health care plan, once again it is deal-cutting season in Washington. This follows President Barack Obama's 2008-09 arguments on a health care proposal his liberal wing liked (more or less as close to universal coverage and single-payer as he could get to).
The Democrats now face the same electoral dilemma the GOP did 19 years ago: If they break with their president and hand him an embarrassing defeat on his signature domestic issue, his job approval numbers will slip badly, and the single best re-election factor for congressmen of the president's party is high job approval for their president.
So now there is high pressure on liberal and moderate Democrats to support whatever the president's plan is (despite the opinions of their constituents -- both liberal voters who don't want their members to compromise and moderate and independent voters who don't want the president's plan at all), just as there was similar pressure on conservative and moderate Republican congressmen back in 1990.
Back then, the will of both the conservative Republican and liberal Democratic voters was defeated by the Washington deal, leading eventually to the crackup of the Republican Party and the election of Bill Clinton, which satisfied neither conservatives nor liberals.
While opponents of President Obama's health proposals have had a good summer, the final round of the fight is just beginning. Their opposition has to be white-hot for the remainder of the season if they are to defeat the grinding pressure on congressmen of the Washington deal.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.