This could make for one hell of a drinking game. Step one: Republicans propose an idea that high-ranking Democrats have explicitly supported in the very recent past. Step two: Democrats unceremoniously dump all over the idea, calling it "unacceptable," "dead on arrival," or whatever the dismissive pejorative of the day may be. Step three: Drink (and I've got just the beverage in mind for this occasion). The trouble is that by this stage in our interminable cliff charade, everyone involved would be too wasted to negotiate any further -- which actually might not be the worst thing in the world, come to think of it. Katie outlined Boehner's "plan B" yesterday morning, and later mentioned initial pooh-poohing by the White House. By dinnertime, every Democrat in existence had shouted into a microphone somewhere about what a rotten idea it was:
The White House and congressional Democrats swiftly panned Speaker John A. Boehner’s plan to push legislation in the House that would let tax rates rise only for millionaires, the Ohio Republican’s “plan B” to avert the fiscal cliff. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement saying the president remains willing to work with Republicans to reach a bipartisan solution to the fiscal cliff and he is “hopeful” they will. The president, however, “is not willing to accept a deal that doesn’t ask enough of the very wealthiest in taxes and instead shifts the burden to the middle class and seniors,” Carney said. “The Speaker’s ‘Plan B’ approach doesn’t meet this test because it can’t pass the Senate and therefore will not protect middle class families, and does little to address our fiscal challenges with zero spending cuts.”
Yes, you just read the White House Press Secretary attacking Boehner's plan B for not cutting enough spending -- unlike the president's very balanced and responsible $1.6 Trillion tax hike/limitless debt ceiling/new "stimulus" proposal, natch. This gripe also ignores the $1 trillion in sequestration cuts, which would remain in effect. Nevertheless, Democrats are still pounding on the table, demanding that Republicans list more explicit spending cuts that they can reject immediately and demagogue for months. Good times. Nancy Pelosi are vowing to whip House Democrats against Boehner's $1 trillion threshold suggestion, which was....her plan just a few months back:
Is House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi abandoning President Barack Obama in his effort to raise taxes on households making more than $250,000? It sure sounded that way on Wednesday. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Ms. Pelosi called on Republicans to pass a permanent extension of Bush-era tax levels for the middle class. The only group Ms. Pelosi singled out for a tax increase was people earning $1 million or more. “We must ask the very wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share,” she wrote in her letter. “Democrats believe that tax cuts for those earning over a million dollars a year should expire and that we should use the resulting revenues to pay down the deficit.”
"Democrats" no longer believe this, apparently. They are back to the $250,000 number, and the president plans to use the "resulting revenues" to finance more spending. Which was always the plan anyway. Asked to explain her remarkable shift, Pelosi proudly announced that her previous idea was nothing more than "an exercise" to "smoke out the Republicans." Her deputy, Steny Hoyer, shrugged it off as a "political ploy." Such good faith actors, these Democrats. And before you ask, of course a bunch of liberal Democrats in the Senate have also embraced
Boehner's Plan B The Most Reckless Plan Evah at one time or another. So where to go from here? First off, a deal may still be in the offing, although it'll likely stink to high heaven. Then there's the cliff diving option, which would be very risky for Republicans, despite Democrats' mind-numbing malfeasance. Next comes the "vote present and make Democrats own virtually anything they want" idea, which I just don't see Republicans pulling off. (In fairness, it would be the textbook definition of capitulation). And finally, we could see yet another round of Republicans negotiating against themselves. Allahpundit games it out:
Boehner could turn up the heat on O even further by dropping the threshold for new taxes from millionaires to households that earn more than $400,000 a year. That was the cut-off that Obama himself proposed yesterday, remember; he’d be giving O exactly what he asked for and then daring him to veto it or the Democrats to block it. He could even hold a splashy “you win” presser before skipping town for Christmas, denouncing the bill as a piece of crap that’ll hurt the economy but one which the House feels obliged to pass because it’s the only way to stop Obama from forcing the country over the cliff. If Democrats respond by refusing to take yes for an answer and blocking the bill, then the economic chaos when we fall off the cliff is entirely on them.
It should be entirely on them under this scenario, but would our friends in the media assess culpability clearly and fairly for public consumption? (Don't answer that; it's a rhetorical question). And since when do Democrats have any compunction whatsoever about blocking their own proposals and blaming Republicans anyway? That's the entire point of this post; they do it all the time. Hey, if they can consistently get away with this sort of juvenile, hopelessly unconstructive posturing without paying a political price, why would they quit now?
UPDATE - Option five could also be a last-ditch effort, wherein the House GOP passes two bills -- one acceding to the $250,000 mark, and the other extending current rates for everyone. They could all vote for the latter item (it'd die in the Senate), then Boehner and Cantor would piece together enough votes to pass the former. The Senate would surely sign off on that....right? The one Easter Egg I'd also include is making those middle cut tax cuts permanent, which could put Dems in a bind down the road if they agree to it. And they have no good excuse to oppose it, given their endless "certainty for the middle class" talking points.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography