Friday, February 8, 2013

A Rude Awakening

You might remember that, in the final hours of 2012, the United States Congress finally got around to passing some kind of spending and debt bill which temporarily resolved the whole "fiscal cliff" insanity which was threatening to send the US government into default and the economy back into recession.

The terms of that bill weren't exactly to the GOP's favor.  President Obama had just won a significant electoral victory, Democrats had held on to their control of the Senate, and while the GOP maintained control of the House, it was only by virtue of extensive gerrymandering; Democrats had actually won the popular vote in House races nationally.

As a result, the GOP took a pounding in the bill - the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.  Budget sequestration was put off by two months with the difference paid entirely in tax increases; income taxes and capital gains taxes went up; deductions and credits were eliminated for high wage earners; estate taxes were increased; federal unemployment benefits were extended; and several expensive portions of the Medicare plan were likewise extended.

In exchange for that the GOP got.... not a whole lot.  The alternative minimum tax was indexed to inflation, but that primarily benefited middle class Americans and a number of corporate tax breaks and loopholes were extended, though no one seemed terribly happy about that.  

Republicans spun the defeat as living to fight another day.  They pointed to the upcoming fight over sequestration as their chosen battlefield and reiterated that, when it came time for that legislative fight, they'd give no more ground on taxes or other positions near and dear to the Republican heart.

Well... that time has come and it looks like the Republicans miscalculated.

December was a long time ago in terms of the news cycle.  Since then the Sandy Hook shooting has happened, the White House released its criteria for killing American citizens with drones, the US government sued Standard and Poor's, North Korea ramped up its nuclear rhetoric (again), the GOP balked on immigration reform, the Senate wavered on filibuster reform, and the House managed to pass Hurricane Sandy aid amid  massive Republican opposition.

No one outside the beltway remembers what was in the fiscal cliff deal and Republicans are depending on the concessions they gave Democrats two months ago to somehow justify, to the American people, their unwillingness to compromise this time around.

Maybe that's why The Hill describes President Obama as "prepared, eager and anxious" for the upcoming sequestration showdown.  Or maybe it's because 73% of Americans "disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling their job" whereas 52% of Americans "approve... of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President."

If House Republicans were counting on popular opinion to aid them at the bargaining table they're in for a rude awakening.  

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