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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 12/13/2010

Tax deal: purists vs. dealmakers

By Jennifer Rubin

We've focused quite a bit -- because it's been such lively entertainment -- on the fight among Democrats over the tax agreement. There is also a vigorous debate on the right, but there it is generally, although not exclusively, a fight between the lawmakers/dealmakers vs. purist pundits. On Fox News Sunday Bill Kristol, on behalf of the dealmakers, explained why Republicans should (and nearly all of them will) vote for the deal:

Because they don't have all the leverage, because Barack Obama is still president of the United States. And as we learned in the fight in 1995, '96, when Republicans had both houses of Congress, remember, against a very weakened Bill Clinton, being president counts for a lot.

And do Republicans really want to begin the new Congress -- which they don't control the Senate, incidentally -- by saying, forget about unemployment insurance? People have been out of work 95 weeks. Most of them, this data shows, want jobs. Most of them aren't sitting around enjoying those unemployed benefits.

I mean, I think unemployment insurance is problematic from an economic point of view, but most of those people who are unemployed would like work. The Republican position at the beginning of a new Republican House is going to be, we insist on -- entirely on the purist version of extending current tax rates. None of these tax extenders, which a lot of Republicans have voted for over the years, incidentally -- a lot of these tax extenders were passed in a Republican Congress. No unemployment insurance, it's an untenable position.

There are conservatives who are in the business of making the perfect the enemy of the good. They have talk shows, books sales or advocacy groups, all of which are fueled by perpetual fear and anger that those inside the Beltway are "selling out" the base. Other pundits look at the deal from a pure policy perspective, irrespective of the politics of the moment, and are troubled by the price-tag. And, of course, there are Republicans who want no distance between themselves and the most stalwart Tea Partyers.

Not all Republican office holders seem inclined to go along with the deal. The Hotline is reporting:

This weekend is a pivotal moment for D.C. Republicans and how they hold the line on the tax cut deal. Too many Republicans have already voiced support for the deal for them to turn against it unanimously, but you already see supportive members like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) questioning the actual substance of the bill. It will be interesting to see if the GOP leadership can hold their members in line, because the Tea Party leaders like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) have already come out against it. As cliché as it sounds, it really is a battle for the soul of the GOP, and whether a place for compromise exists within the party.

Are we really going to see large numbers of Republicans voting against the bill, which amounts to a vote to raise taxes? An aide to a Republican House leader says that there might be "pockets" of resistance, but he believes "most will support it so taxes do not increase." A senior Senate staffer tells me, "We won't be unanimous, but there is still strong support within the conference." He declines, however, to speculate as to how many votes the GOP will lose.

One congressman to keep an eye on is Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). He's plainly getting ready for a presidential run, while talking down the tax agreement. Will he vote no with a tip of the hat to the Tea Party-Palin-DeMint segment of the party, staking out his credentials with the base? Or is he intent on showing himself to be a principled, but effective dealmaker? His spokesman Sunday emailed me, "His latest comment from last week was that he is 'not decided but not impressed.'"

You can understand why liberals would vote against it. Those faithful to soak-the-rich tax policy have a hard time justifying why they'd dump their principles for a mere one-year extension of unemployment benefits. But what's the Republicans excuse, with a Democrat in the White House, to block a bill extending the Bush tax cuts? One GOP House staffer dismissed potential opposition to the bill, telling me last night that it is "idiotic to say that this will do nothing for the economy. Not raising taxes will of course have positive economic benefits. Would a longer extension be better? Sure. But raising now would be a disaster, so this will certainly help."

But that's a dealmaker's' perspective -- a non-purist in search of the good, not the perfect. We'll see how many Republicans take a contrary view.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 13, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  House GOP, President Obama, Taxes  
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Principled Republicans should oppose this bill because they can get a better, cleaner bill first thing in January.

Posted by: Inagua1 | December 13, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Inagua1 has it right. Why Jennifer do you ignore the possibility that the Repubs can get a better deal in January instead of denigrating those who disagree with you?

Posted by: cajunkate | December 13, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

The person that can not allow tax rates to increase is President Obama .His biggest promise was if you make under 250000$ a year your tax would not go up one single dime. The republicans have the leverage here and are wasting it. I do believe in lower taxes for all but not earned income credits to people that pay no federal taxes. Perpetual unemployment insurance a tough choice but when you have no money serious cuts in other spending must occur to continue those payments. If the deal as written is a tax cutting, business incentive bill i would support it. If it is more spending and welfare iI would oppose it no matter what tax cuts are in it.

Posted by: eddiehaskall | December 13, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

The world is not always fair. Conservatives will have a difficult time converting the majority of Americans over to free market economics. However, it must be done. The myth that FDR saved capitalism during the Great Depression is still widely held. Arthur M. Schlesinger's disgracefully shabby "scholarship" did an enormous amount of damage. Republicans should reject the present agreement and resume negotiations with Obama in the new Congress. It's time to bite the bullet and show some courage.

Posted by: DavidThomson | December 13, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

that is 250000$ a year or less. Sorry about that Jennifer.

Posted by: eddiehaskall | December 13, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Inagua is incorrect. After January 1st they may be able to "craft" a better bill, but they won't be able to get a better bill signed. If you don't pass this bill, there will be a massive tax hike and Obama's veto pen and the Dem Senate control will dictate the parameters of any signed deal even after Jan 1.

Posted by: RRS1 | December 13, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans and the President cut a deal having certain elements. The Pelosi/Reid party of democrats, ignoring the probable wishes of the true Democrats in the congress, is going nuts trying to add in things that they could not get through on a 'stand-alone' basis.
The Republicans should now say either its the deal we made or its no deal.
Interestingly, the Congressional Black Caucus has said it will, as a group, vote against the President...thats OK, but they seem not to understand they are voting against their people. Would seem to me a vote for continued unemployment benefits, as bad as that is after 99 weeks already, is better than no un employment benefits for the 18 or 20% of the Black community that is out of work.

Posted by: tompoolementoh | December 13, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer writes, "Will he vote no with a tip of the hat to the Tea Party-Palin-DeMint segment of the party, staking out his credentials with the base? Or is he intent on showing himself to be a principled, but effective dealmaker?"

Are not Tea Partyers principled? Does not writing "principled, but . . . " suggest that one is either principled or effective, but not both?

It may be a sad reality in politics that one can be either principled or practical, but not both. I think Tea Partyers (and others) see this as part of the problem.

Posted by: DocC1 | December 13, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse


I was unclear. I object to the add-ons for ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar, railroads, etc. None of that was part of the announced "framework." This reeks of Cornhusker Kickback and Tom Delay/George Bush style Big Governmdent Republicanism.

Posted by: Inagua1 | December 13, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Inagua, thanks for the clarification.
I agree. No add ons.

Posted by: RRS1 | December 13, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

inagua wrote:

"This reeks of Cornhusker Kickback and Tom Delay/George Bush style Big Governmdent Republicanism."

There isn't any other kind of Republicanism, once actually in office, as you will see come January!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 13, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse


The only way to oppose the add-ons is to vote no and risk an Obama veto of a clean bill in January. I fear that 54 is correct and that most elected Republicans are basically sell outs. It is certainly depressing that our gracious hostess supports the add-ons. The ethanol program, which now even Al Gore admits is not good policy, is especially galling. The fact that there is insufficient political will to curtail just this one relatively small boondogle is extremely depressing.

Posted by: Inagua1 | December 13, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Complaining about the hypocrisy of many Republican legislators is legitimate. The answer is not to abandon the party---but to work within it to make it better. It is the only game in town! We must abandon the myth that electing the next Jimmy Stewart will resolve our crisis. Voters must keep up the pressure after the election.

Posted by: DavidThomson | December 13, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse


They're only sellouts if you look at it one way. Politicians from both parties don't work for you or me, they work for the established financial interests in the country. Viewed from that perspective, they are true.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 13, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

How can so many people be so stupid so often?
And not just about all things Obama.
But tell me now, how can a party be so fundamentally grotesque as to consider, which is happening in Texas schools, that the Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" to be too liberal---because it purports to show that helping people can make a guy the richest man in town---and therefore deserving prohibition?
More Potters are what we need, they say down yonder---more likenesses of the scrooge-like, money-grubbing Mr. Potter, George Bailey's ultimate nemesis---is just what the country deserves and the school books should be teaching.
Is it possible that the conistently muddle-headed Rubin has never been to Bedford Falls?

Posted by: PeterLarrabee | December 13, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse


I am a relentless optimist. I keep hoping it will be different this time, but of course it never is. Put not your faith in Princes is still good advice.

Posted by: Inagua1 | December 13, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

lest everyone forgets, the Bond Market has the biggest vote, and, so far, the Bond Market is voting NO to the Obama-Senate GOP deal.

As I recall, the TEA Party mostly wanted to stop the deficit spending, shrink the Federal government, and repeal/whatever Obamacare.

Extending the corn ethanol subsidy shows both parties at their worst. As does continuing the tariff on Brazilian sugar ethanol - the ultimate in protectionist violation of the WTO -and one key reason why Brazil thumbs their nose at the U.S. in foreign policy.

The Dems should fund unemployment extension from unspent CRRA stimulus or TARP funds, and EVERYONE should stop tinkering with the tax code as "stimulus".
The FICA tax holiday will just give the tax-cutting purists in the GOP another excuse to make that permanent.

Posted by: K2K2 | December 13, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse


You and Rhett Butler:

"Maybe it's because I've always had a weakness for lost causes , once they're really lost."

Posted by: 54465446 | December 13, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

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