Patty Murray: Democrats will go over 'fiscal cliff' unless GOP relents
No. 4 Senate Democrat says that Republicans must agree to let tax cuts expire for the richest Americans or face a tax hike for all – a move that lifts a page from the GOP playbook.
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“If you remember back when the negotiating tactic of the Republicans was let’s default, let’s let the debt ceiling rip, that was clearly scary to those of us who thought default was an unacceptable option,” said Ms. Rivlin at a panel after Murray’s speech. “I’m not for going off the cliff, but I think as a negotiating tactic it makes a lot of sense,” to bring Republicans toward Democrats’ position.Skip to next paragraph
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That – with no small dose of irony – casts Republicans in the role held by President Obama and congressional Democrats last summer, decrying their opponents on the left with playing politics in the face of financial doom.
“In their near-fanatical crusade to inflict even more pain on American businesses, Democrats are now openly admitting that they plan to wait until this debate reaches full throttle and Americans are panicked about the outcome to do anything, because they think it will make it likelier they’ll get their way,” said Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky in a statement.
And that financial peril is real. Congress’s nonpartisan budget scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office, estimates that allowing all of the provisions of the fiscal cliff to take effect could put the US economy into a recession during the first half of 2013. Several defense contractors have loudly announced that defense cuts could cost thousands of jobs, and many economists believe that as uncertainty around taxes and spending for next year amps up as the year-end deadline nears, the economy may begin to slow even further.
“This fiscal cliff is unlike previous Washington confrontations and that it will be very difficult to avoid damage to the markets and to the economy this fall, even if this impasse ultimately gets resolved in December's lame duck session of Congress,” wrote Pete Davis of Davis Capital Investment Ideas in an analysis. “That damage will get a lot worse if the resolution occurs next January or February.”
In addition to the economic risks, Murray’s plan of action is not without political risk for Democrats. It would expose vulnerable incumbents such as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri and Sen. Jon Tester (D) of Montana to charges that they’re raising taxes, if only for 2 percent of Americans, during an economic downturn.
For now, Democrats appear to like the wager from a political perspective.
“Ninety-eight percent of the American people will get a tax cut. The vast majority of Americans, including about 60 percent of Republicans, support what we're doing. They believe the 2 percent should contribute a little more,” said Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada on Thursday in a press briefing with reporters adding that “My senators are going to be doing just fine” pushing back on Republican claims.
That comfort is in part because Democrats seem content to blame stalemate and economic pain emanating from Washington on what they call the GOP’s insistence on not raising a single new dollar in tax revenue. More than 90 percent of congressional Republicans have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, championed by anti-tax stalwart Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, that forbids new tax increases.
“Unless Republicans end their commitment to protecting the rich above all else,” Murray said, “our country is going to have to face the consequences of Republican intransigence.”