I've been critical of Republican tactics and messaging this week, so let's give credit where it's due: Moments ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor and offered an immediate vote on President Obama's fiscal cliff plan, which shocked the Beltway late last week. (In case you're keeping score at home, this was the surreal proposal that induced McConnell to laugh out loud as it was outlined by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner). Harry Reid quickly objected and shut the whole thing down, labeling the suggestion a "stunt." Think about that. The President of the United States, a Democrat, crafted a fiscal cliff package that would give him everything he wants. It has tax hikes on the rich. It has huge tax hikes on investments and estates. It has more stimulus spending. It has no meaningful, specific, or guaranteed spending cuts. And it compels Congress to cede control of the debt ceiling to him. This is "fairness" on steroids. The Senate's top Republican proposed an up-or-down vote on everything the president wants, yet Democrats, who control the upper chamber, instantly blocked it. By what definition is it a "stunt" to hold a vote on the president's full, public plan? The White House has insisted it's a serious document, yet Hill Democrats don't want it to see the light of day.
This isn't the first time we've seen Democrats engaged in this awkward political dance. Obama released a wildly expensive, unpaid-for "jobs" (read: stimulus) plan last year. Republicans offered to vote on it, and Reid objected; a "stunt," he said. Reid even went so far as to change the Senate rules to block Republicans from forcing a vote on the bill. Obama also put forward budget blueprints for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, both of which were unanimously defeated in Congress. Every single Democrat voted against both budgets, griping that the act of actually voting on Obama's budgets amounted to -- you guessed it -- a Republican "stunt." The reason for all of this cynical posturing is pretty simple: Obama's plans aren't reasonable. They're totally beyond the realm of possibility. They're all for show -- unserious, extreme, unaffordable, and so reckless that even his own party doesn't have a prayer of passing them through the legislative body they control. And yet, the White House continues to demand that Republicans offer an endless parade of "serious proposals" for them to inevitably reject as unserious. Which side is acting like petulant children, again? Do Democrats really want to avoid the fiscal cliff, as they claim? If so, wouldn't they welcome the chance to give the president what he's asking for? I'll leave you with McConnell's floor speech handing Democrats the opportunity to do just that, knowing exactly what they'd be forced to do. Good stuff, especially the feigned "surprise:"
[The president's plan] was so ridiculous, as I’ve said, it wouldn’t even pass the House under Nancy Pelosi. And that’s why even the most liberal members of Congress, the President’s most ardent supporters, haven’t come forward to support it. So, for the White House to demand a response shows they’re just playing games at this point. And if you don’t believe me, ask yourself how many Democrats would vote for this bill. Not many. But I didn’t think we should have to speculate. I still think we should give Democrats a chance to demonstrate for themselves how serious the President’s plan was, and how serious they are. That’s why I just asked consent to offer an amendment to the Russia Trade Bill that gave them that opportunity. As I noted, I’d be happy to have this vote here, or as an amendment to the next bill, or as a standalone — it will not slow down what I hope is swift passage of PNTR for Russia. If the President’s proposal was made in good faith, Democrats should be eager to vote for it. So I’m surprised the Majority Leader just declined the chance for them to support it with their votes. I guess we’re left to conclude that it couldn’t even pass by a bare majority of votes, and that they’d rather take the country off the cliff than actually work out a good-faith agreement that reflects tough choices on both sides.
...I for one was eager to see what Democrats in the Senate support this totally unrealistic proposal. I think folks should know who actually wants to raise taxes on family farmers and manufacturers, and who thinks we can solve our fiscal problems without doing anything serious to our real long term liabilities. Democrats are so focused on the politics of this debate they seem to forget there’s a cost. They’re feeling so good about the election, they’ve forgotten they’ve got a duty to govern. A lot of people are going to suffer a lot if we go off this cliff. That’s why we assumed Democrats wanted to avoid it. We thought it was the perfect opportunity to do something together. Apparently we were wrong.
Maybe Boehner should introduce the bill over in the House, too. Every Republican would vote no, and I'd bet Pelosi would orchestrate unanimous 'no' votes from her caucus, too. Because, obviously, "stunts!!" Thus, House Democrats would be voting against the president's "balanced" fiscal cliff tax plan "for the middle class" and "fairness." Good times. The biggest problem the GOP is facing at the moment is a public that has bought into the idea that they're the irresponsible actors in this drama. Watching the Democrats line up against their own side's plan might complicate that narrative a bit, to say nothing of the smoking-gun 2011 video of the president touting the math behind the current Republican. In case you're wondering, the White House's explanation for that cognitive dissonance is pretty fun: In essence, "but it was different back then Just because."
UPDATE - Reid: The Obama proposal doesn't exist. Geithner: "We laid out a very detailed set of proposals." How pathetic.
UPDATE II - Video, via Greg:
UPDATE III - Geithner: The White House is "absolutely" willing to go over the fiscal cliff (which they themselves say will cause a recession) if they don't get their tax rate hikes.