In an interview with Chris Matthews before the election, Joe Biden spoke about the likelihood of second-term cooperation from Republicans. He was optimistic.
“I think the fever will have broken,” Biden said. “You have this Tea Party wing of the party controlling their party…What we need is a Republican party…Instead of them signing the pledge to Norquist, they should be signing a pledge to the middle class, say we’re going to level the playing field. And mark my words, [if Obama wins] that’s going to happen.”
It seems Biden was on to something: a number of Republicans have already emerged from the post-election funk to vow compromise in the next big legislative test: the fiscal cliff.
The fiscal cliff compromise will hinge on whether or not Democrats can persuade enough Republicans to vote for increased revenues, namely, raising the income tax on top earners to Clinton-era rates. Republicans were obstinate throughout Obama’s first term about not raising taxes — every Republican primary candidate refused a hypothetical deal that offered ten dollars in cuts for every one dollar in revenue — but the GOP rigidity seems to be loosening now that Obama has won a second term.
“We need to put politics aside, said Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss (GA.) Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “The election is over. President Obama has won.”
Bob Corker (R – Tenn.) told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday:
“I think there is a deal. Look at the yin and yang of this: It’s that we know there has to be revenues. And I think, look, I haven’t met a wealthy Republican or Democrat in Tennessee that’s not willing to contribute more as long as they know we solved the problems. So the yin of revenue we understand, and I think there is a very good pro-growth way of putting that in place so you’re actually getting revenues from people like me and other folks, who are making above X [number of] dollars.”
But the change in attitude is nowhere more visible or clearly stated than in conservative pundit Bill Kristol’s comments on the same Fox News Sunday:
“You know what? It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires. It really won’t, I don’t think. Really, the Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood?”
Most of the Republicans mentioning compromise seem to be pinning their willingness to do so on a reciprocal Democratic willingness to address entitlement reform.
“I think that’s a given, and I think the vast majority of Americans agree with that,” Senator Tom Coburn (R – Okl.) said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “The question is how do you do that and how do you allow taxes to rise at the same time [that] you fix the real problem? And the real problem is uncontrolled entitlement spending and a government that has grown massively.”
Other Republicans, like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), recognize the necessity of revenue, but don’t agree the way to get there is by raising taxes outright. ”We need more revenue in Washington,” Graham said on CBS’s Face The Nation Sunday. “We need more private sector jobs. We don’t need to raise tax rates. We need to limit loopholes and deductions for the wealthy.”
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has the same feeling as Graham when it comes to taxes. He wants to address revenue in the tax code, not the tax rates.
A deal is still far from made, but a stronger GOP willingness to compromise is evident in a call Boehner made to House Republicans after Obama won. He told his caucus, plainly, that they lost, and that they would need to avoid nasty showdowns like those that marked the last two years. Instead of a violent revolt, the House members “murmured words of support.”
Well, it’s something.