Talking heads on TV and liberal members of Congress have criticized President Obama’s negotiations on the fiscal cliff deal. But, getting enough Republicans to vote in favor of the deal was no walk in the park–it was a huge victory in itself.
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell discussed his own experience trying to broker a tax deal in the Senate Thursday’s Rewrite segment on The Last Word and explained just how hard it was for Obama to get the GOP lawmakers to sign off on any sort of tax hikes in the Grover Norquist-led lockdown.
He said it took “literally years of strategizing, including allowing a two-year extension of the Bush tax rates in order to get strategically positioned so that he could force Republicans to cast a vote they vowed never to cast.”
But Republicans cast that hard vote. O’Donnell broke down the president’s strategy in getting conservatives to get on board with the bill:
“President Obama was not just trying to get these guys to vote for a tax increase. He needed them to vote for an extension of unemployment benefits which were going to be cut off on New Year’s Day. The dynamics of the fiscal cliff gave the president a strategic advantage in negotiating the tax side of what he wanted to do. However, he had absolutely no leverage on the unemployment side of the bill. But he was also absolutely determined to not let that lifeline be cut off to those people who have been out of work for so long. And so he made a minor concession to Republicans on exactly where the top tax bracket would kick in, and the president and the Democrats very cleverly set that threshold at exactly where it would be today.”
The hard-fought deal allowed Bush tax cuts to expire for families making more than $450,000 and offered limited budget cuts.
The last time congressional Republicans voted for a tax increase was in 1990 under President George H. W. Bush.