The Plan B pill is taken by women the morning after having sexual intercourse in order to avoid getting pregnant. Unfortunately for the Republicans and John Boehner, their plan B could not prevent the birth of a fiasco, meaning the Republicans are screwed.
After weeks of talks it was clear that there was no way Speaker John Boehner could get his party to support the kind of deal that he and President Obama were building to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. The Republican leadership decided they needed a “plan B” to pressure the Democrats to make more concessions.
At first Plan B was simply to pass a higher tax rate on to millionaires, with rates staying the same for everyone else. Boehner’s argument: “I’ve now shown I’m willing to accept a tax rate increase. That’s what the President has wanted from me. Now let’s see what he’ll give me in exchange.” If nothing, Boehner reasoned, the GOP would have some cover -rather than being seen as an intransigent party refusing any tax increase on the wealthy, they could say they had moved and the Democrats need to respond in good faith.
Only thing – Boehner had to get Plan B passed. At first he figured it should be easy. His party has the majority in the House, and back in 2011 many Democrats had suggested that raising rates on millionaires would be enough – Boehner could throw their own words back at them. If it could get through the Senate with Democratic help, it would force Obama to veto the bill and make it look like he was blocking progress. Fearful of that happening, Obama would have to give the Republicans more of what they wanted.
It didn’t work.
First, Democrats were pretty united against it. What was said in 2011 is irrelevant; this is a new political reality. Given that, Boehner needed to have Republican unity to get it to at least pass the House. He failed. Too many conservatives had taken a career stand against EVER raising taxes, even on millionaires.
Boehner appealed to reason – the lower tax rates will expire on everyone on January 1. Then the House will be forced to pass a bill lowering taxes on those under $250,000, meaning rates will go up on a lot more people. “I need this for my negotiations,” Boehner said – for leverage, it’s not actually going to become law!
Nope. The hard right, already angry that some of its members had committee assignments plucked away from them for their disloyalty, dug in. So Boehner added budget cuts to the mix – cuts that meant that any chance that the Democrats could support it withered. He didn’t care, he was desperate. He had to pass something in the House. ANYTHING.
After a tense meeting on the evening of Thursday December 20, the Republicans managed to impale themselves. The far right accepted nothing, the Speaker’s leadership was rejected, and the party was split. Conservatives were gleeful about the separation, believing they had gotten revenge on the Speaker and had stood on principle. But it’s a Pyrrhic victory.
In the headlines the story is clear: Boehner’s efforts to compromise even a bit were shot down by extremists in his own party. Any effort to shift blame to the Democrats or show that the Republicans were negotiating in good faith fell apart. Any deal that gets passed will be a Democratic agreement — the President and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will craft a proposal that can pass the Senate and the House, appealing to at least enough Republicans to get it through.
Moreover, this will likely happen after New Year’s, meaning that the Republicans might lose the President’s offer to raise rates only on those earning $400,000 and higher.
Conservatives say fine – make the Democrats own what is passed. Make them responsible for tax increases, make them responsible for any cuts that are made. Rather than governing, which is what legislative bodies are supposed to do, they want to make stands on “principle.” But principles are always simplified rules of thumb, inapplicable across all contexts. Sticking to simple principles is for the simple minded – reality is far more complex.
Governance is about compromise and problem solving. John Boehner understands that; too many in his party do not.
So now what? The Republicans are in disarray, still fighting over the lessons of 2012, even as a recent CNN poll shows that 53% of Americans consider the GOP too extremist while 57% consider the Democrats mainstream. They may hope that 2014 is 2010 redux — another off year election — but the mood of the country is much different.
Simply, they are seeing their “conservative revolution” die. The country is moving slightly center-left, with pragmatism trumping ideology. The Grover Norquist types are 20th century relics, whose politics are poison today. The tea party was the last gasp of this movement, reacting in horror to the election of man they couldn’t imagine as President. But it was an illusion, they won in 2010 because of the economy and the fact the voters thought it would facilitate compromise. It wasn’t a popular conservative rebellion against Obama.
2012 may be seen as the election that solidified a move to the left that started in 2006, and was interrupted by the 2010 elections. If that’s the case, the Republican party is going to have to go through a kind of reconstruction, rethinking how their principles and beliefs apply in the 21st Century. They’ll need to look at other successful conservative parties in Europe, and most of all recognize that the world today is not the same as it was thirty years ago.
Perhaps its fitting that a party that has been fighting against contraception insurance with no co-pays for all women should have its Plan B fail. The party has reached rock bottom, there is no place to go but up. Will it be a Rubio uniting the conservatives with a more moderate message? Perhaps Chris Christie’s gruff style can be a pragmatism conservatives embrace? Right now the Republicans are down and out, but the future is pregnant with possibilities.