Speaker John Boehner unveiled his party’s counter offer to avert going over the so-called fiscal cliff on Monday, and to many Democrats, it sounded familiar.
The offer includes $800 billion worth of revenue—a far cry from President Obama’s $1.6 trillion starting bid—and stipulates that none of that revenue is to come from raising tax rates. Rather, Boehner’s plan proposes raising revenue through reforming the tax code. Though as White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said on Monday, the GOP plan “provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they would close, or which Medicare savings they would achieve.”
Boehner also put forth another $1.2 trillion in spending cuts from programs including Medicare and Medicaid, and proposed changes to the consumer price index, such as reducing Medicare and Social Security benefits, which the GOP plan states would save another $200 billion.
But above all, the Republicans’ plan promises to preserve tax breaks for the rich by extending the Bush tax cuts for all income brackets, including the top 2% of Americans.
Deja vu, anyone?
“Boehner is trying to offer the same, exact policies that Mitt Romney ran and lost on, that the Republicans tried to negotiate with the White House last year,” said MSNBC contributor Joy Reid of The Grio on Hardball Monday. “It is incredible.”
Long before Romney won the Republican nomination on a platform that centered around tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans—a platform rejected in the November election—Boehner was pushing the same modest revenue proposal. In the summer of 2011, amid the debt ceiling debacle, Boehner proposed exactly $800 billion in revenue as long as that revenue did not come from raising tax rates.
So despite the outcome of an election that sent Obama back to the White House for another four years with what some would call a mandate, Boehner and some of his fellow Republicans have not travelled very far from where they started.
“Maybe Boehner feels like he has to protect his caucus to the end, look like he fought till the last dog died for those 2% rates,” posited Reid. “Because then when he caves at the end—which he’s going to have to do—he can at least say he tried.”
The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman had another theory.
“[Republicans] are clinging to this idea because it’s all that’s left,” said Fineman on Hardball Monday. “It’s the only thing they have that they can identify with as a core, Republican belief,” he continued. “It’s a matter of faith that they’re clinging to.”
Should Democrats and Republicans fail to reach a deal that prevents $500 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases to take effect after Jan. 1, however, the White House may have what Fineman referred to as an “ace in the hole” strategy: Let all the Bush tax cuts expire. Then, once the 113th Congress is sworn in with more Democrats than there were before in both the House and Senate, pass a bill to cut taxes again for the middle class.
But as host Chris Matthews pointed out, delaying the deal is a risky maneuver, one that could result in the failure of Congress to pass a middle class tax cut or could once again jeopardize the U.S.’s standing in the global markets.
Said Matthews: “When you pay your bills on time, you’re impressive; when you pay them late, you’re not.”