Big losers in 'fiscal cliff' talks? Tea party, perhaps.
House Republicans say Election 2012 validated their tea party-backed revolution two years earlier. But two moves Monday suggest that House leaders are turning away from the movement.
By the numbers, it would seem that Election 2012 didn't change much, with the White House and Congress remaining in the same hands. But Monday’s Capitol Hill goings-on hinted at just how much Washington’s terrain is shifting
The conservative wing of the GOP, which propelled the party to historic success in 2010, is being marginalized – leading to open calls for rebellion in some quarters.
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First, there’s a Republican moderation on taxes – accepting new revenues that are anathema to the tea party credo that gave Republicans control of the House two years ago. But more quietly, House leaders stripped plum committee assignments from three deeply conservative freshman lawmakers – assignments doled out with much fanfare in 2010 to show that party leadership would listen to its vocal and conservative bloc of freshman members.
Together, the two moves are evidence of the stresses within a Republican Party trying to reorient itself after an electoral drubbing in November
On Monday, House Republican leaders signed on to a plan that would raise $800 billion in taxes over a decade as part of a $2.2 trillion proposal to avert the impending "fiscal cliff." The plan did not raise tax rates but vowed to close tax loopholes, providing money that the federal government could use to pay down the deficit.
In the summer of 2011, House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio reportedly offered a similar amount of revenue in debt-reduction negotiations with President Obama. But House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin called such use of tax revenues everything short of political apostasy. This year, however, they put their signatures on the offer to the president on Monday.
Representative Cantor noted the change the election wrought even before the House GOP made its offer.
“The speaker put new revenues on the table just after the election and said: 'We get it. The president won his reelection; we won our reelection. We have to now come together,' ” he told reporters on Friday. Offering more tax revenue “is our proposal to the president that we were unwilling to give a year and a half ago during the debt-ceiling talks."
The groups that powered the conservative surge in 2010 treated the plan with icy disdain.
“The president's proposal and Speaker Boehner's counteroffer fail to seriously deal with the reality of the problems facing the nation,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, an arch-conservative advocacy group backed by a pair of conservative billionaires. “Conservatives are looking for a leader to fight against tax increases, to push back against wasteful government spending, and address the fiscal challenges in a bold way. Sadly, this plan leaves conservatives wanting."
An e-mail sent to supporters of Heritage Action, the political advocacy arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, added: “Republicans retained control of the U.S. House of Representatives to serve as a check to President Obama's big-government agenda, not to find creative ways to fund it.”