“Fiscal Cliff” Negotiations Preview Importance of Filibuster Reform
As you probably know, the first day of each legislative session (ie: every two years) the House & Senate can set the rules for how that session operates with a simple majority vote. This is the ONLY day such changes can be made. After that, whatever rules are in place, Congress is stuck with for the next two years. After a stunning number of Republican filibusters during Obama’s first two years in office, many Democrats begged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to change the filibuster rules to avoid another two years of gridlock. Reid foolishly said “No” as some sort of gesture of good faith with the GOP. What Reid failed to realize was that now that the House was in GOP hands, Senate Republicans didn’t HAVE to filibuster as often as before because they knew the new Republican-controlled House would just kill everything anyway, so promising not to filibuster so much was an easy promise to keep. Despite that, the Senate still came close to tying their 2009-2010 filibuster record these past two years. So Democrats are again begging Reid to wise up and stop thinking that if Democrats show deference to Republicans, they’ll return the favor (and it seems they may finally be getting the picture. And in a nick of time I might add.) Based on the reactions I saw on the Sunday shows yesterday, if the filibuster is not reformed, the GOP is all set to block everything in sight, disappointed from losing an election they thought they were sure to win, the GOP is ready, willing & able to “rule by proxy” and undermine Obama’s entire second term to advance their legislative agenda.
“Tea Party 2 is going to dwarf Tea Party 1 if Obama pushes us over the fiscal cliff.” – Grover Norquist on “Meet the Press” yesterday.
The “Fiscal Cliff” that America is supposedly careening towards like a racecar using a boat-anchor for brakes, arrives on January 1st as the “Bush Tax Cuts” for ALL Americans are finally allowed to expire as intended, two-years past their original termination date. The GOP is already holding the tax break for 98% of Americans hostage in order to avoid a 4.6% increase in taxes on people that gross over a quarter million dollars a year in income (Republicans argue that a substantial number of these filers are actually “small businesses” filing as individuals on their taxes, but the number of “small businesses” grossing between $250,000 and $388,000 and filing as “individuals” is actually quite small (and I’d argue, if you are grossing over a quarter Mil in profit, you ain’t no “small” business). And again, it bears pointing out that we’re only talking about an increase of just 4.6%, which on $300,000 of income, comes to an extra $2,300 in taxes… not even ONE TENTH the salary of a single middle-manager employee.
When President Obama presented his “opening bid” in the Debt Negotiations to Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell, Boehner called it “not a serious proposal” on Fox “news” Sunday yesterday, and when host Chris Wallace asked him if it was true that McConnell “laughed out loud” at the offer, Boehner did not say a word. (How come when Biden “laughed at Paul Ryan” during the debates, he was being “obnoxious” and “immature”, but when McConnell does it, it’s legitimate criticism?) In any case, Boehner refused to say whether the GOP was willing to “go over the cliff” come January, only to imply that the GOP would find other ways to cut the budget if they don’t get their way (translation, the House will table every budget and the Senate minority will filibuster every bill.)
Part of President Obama’s proposal was to eliminate the need to vote on raising “the Debt Ceiling”. It’s an arcane and stupid rule that does NOT appear in the Constitution, so all this talk about the “Constitutional authority of Congress to raise the Debt Ceiling” is nonsense. In fact, the only thing in the Constitution even related to Debt (as we learned a year ago, is the 14th Amendment [ibid] that gives the president the power to CIRCUMVENT Congress and raise the ceiling all by himself to avoid default if necessary). A GOP filibuster of the Debt Ceiling in 2010 cost the U.S…. not only our AAA credit rating… but the resulting drop in our credit rating means we now must pay MORE in interest to convince people to lend us money to make up for the fear we might default and not pay them back. So while Republicans were screaming bloody murder over the size of the Deficit they actually made the problem WORSE with their shenanigans. It makes NO sense that the same body that approves spending is also the same body that votes on whether they will allow us to raise money to PAY for that spending. It’s nuts. And it needs to go. But when Grover Norquist was asked about this last week, he actually suggested we vote on raising the Debt Ceiling “Monthly if he’s good. Weekly if he’s not” as if the president were a misbehaving child. This of course makes no sense because IT’S NOT THE PRESIDENT THAT APPROVES SPENDING, IT’S CONGRESS. The Debt Ceiling would only need to be raised to pay for CONGRESS’ spending. It has nothing to do with THE PRESIDENT’S behavior. Should our nation’s entire economy be held hostage by a man that doesn’t even seem to understand this one simple principle of how our Budget works?
Senator Clare McCaskill pointed out the obvious on “Meet the Press” yesterday regarding the “fiscal cliff”:
SEN. MCCASKILL: And here’s the deal. Here’s– here’s the reality. Let’s assume they [Republicans] won’t go for any raising of the rates, then all the Bush tax cuts are going to expire and then we would come back in January, first thing and pass a tax cut for everybody under 250. What, are the Republicans going to vote no on that?
Democrats hold ALL the cards in this “fiscal cliff” debate and the GOP knows it. Dems are offering to extend the “Bush Tax Cuts” for EVERYBODY on the first $250,000 in income RIGHT NOW, while the GOP is threatening to let EVERYBODY’S taxes go up “to protect millionaires & billionaires” (to quote Bill Kristol) from a 4.6% increase in taxes. And if they refuse to agree to Obama’s demands and take the country “over the cliff” (which actually isn’t a ”cliff” at all. More of a ”Reset Button”), then EVERYONE’S taxes go up and Democrats get to pass a totally separate “OBAMA Tax Cut” for 98% of Americans.
That is… if the GOP doesn’t threaten to filibuster it. Republicans are over a barrel on this one. Democrats don’t have to concede ANYTHING in this debate. And what can Republicans do to extract concessions from the Democrats? Nothing except the threat of obstruction if they don’t get their way. Time to defang this obstructionist “Do Nothing Republican Party” once and for all. Bring back “The Standing Filibuster” and force the obstructionists to stand before the cameras for all the world to see just who is stopping Congress from getting anything done.
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