The Plan B Fiasco

A dark day for the Speaker

A dark day for the Speaker

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.

Boehner's best option is now Plan C

Boehner’s best option is now Plan C

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.

Boehner's fiasco comes a week after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell embarrassed himself by filibustering his own resolution due to a strategic miscalculation

Boehner’s fiasco comes a week after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell embarrassed himself by filibustering his own resolution due to a strategic miscalculation

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.

The tea party anger of 2010 may have been the last gasp of a dying movement

The tea party anger of 2010 may have been the last gasp of a dying movement

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.

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  1. #1 by Norbrook on December 22, 2012 - 06:34

    Excellent post, Scott. I think the historical judgement of Boehner’s time as Speaker is that he’s going to be seen as a very poor one. Even aside from that though, it’s apparent that the Republican Party has completely misread the electorate, and continues to do so. I’ve said that purists are lousy at governing, and the problem for the Republicans is that in order to win what they have, they’ve had to become “pure conservatives” to appeal to their core constituencies. Which works in low turnout elections, but in any other, their core is a dwindling number.

  2. #2 by Snoring Dog Studio on December 22, 2012 - 09:07

    A great read, Scott. The Republican House members only served to show this country that extremists have hijacked that party and are completely unable and unwilling to compromise. The electorate will remember this in 2014 – and they’ll be reminded of it. It’s so bizarre – the sane among us go to work knowing that we have to compromise or we lose our jobs. This has been a disgusting few years watching this dysfunctional party.

  3. #3 by lbwoodgate on December 22, 2012 - 10:17

    I think the only reason Republicans salvaged a majority in the House this election, albeit 8 seats less than they had, is because of the gerrymandering they imposed in those states where they won majorities. Sadly this will pretty much ensure their re-elections for years to come but hopefully time will remove the extremist element within the Party of Lincoln.

    Nice commentary on the subject Scott

  4. #4 by Scott Erb on December 22, 2012 - 10:40

    Because Democratic districts that are urban are so heavily Democratic, there is an edge to Republicans just be districting alone. The Democrats actually got more votes for House candidates than did the Republicans. Many Republicans see that advantage and want to change their states electoral college laws to divide the votes by district. Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and I believe Michigan and others would have had more electoral votes for Romney than Obama. That way they could lose the popular vote by a significant margin and still win the electoral college. Watch for that to be the next effort.

  5. #5 by margieinitaly on December 23, 2012 - 11:58

    You always make things so clear to understand. I agree totally.

  6. #6 by Jeff Fordham on December 24, 2012 - 15:29

    Its a sad fact that their low information voter base are from some of the red states that receive a major share of federal social programs……..these states also have the highest amount of “non payers” in the tax system…………………the 47% that have no stake in the game as Mittens said so well. I sent this map (in frames) to some of my dear friends who spout off the most about the “takers” from liberal northern areas………………………

    I just love to kindly kick some ass with facts . What happens after…lets say… the Republicans get 5-7 years of draconian cuts to the very base they dupe to garner votes?

    I would like to ask that pompous prick Haley Barber on camera about his state being number 1 in the non payer crowd………just to see his reaction

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