The Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: Political Theater and the Taming of the Heads


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Republican Leverage

Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge has cornered House Republicans in the fiscal cliff negotiations. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore

Although clearly playing the weaker hand, Republicans are not entirely without leverage in the negotiations.

The House must pass any deal reached by Boehner and the president, and 236 have signed Grover Norquist’s The Taxpayer Protection Pledge, an oath not to increase marginal tax rates on individuals and businesses.

Breaking the pledge could entail significant political risk.

In a last-ditch “Doomsday Plan” seriously under consideration, Republicans would allow a vote in the House on just extending middle class tax cuts, then refuse to vote for or against by voting “present”.

This would allow them to avoid taking the blame for increases on the middle class while not breaking the pledge or violating their principles.

Tax Deal: Likely Outcome

Despite Boehner’s public pronouncement last Friday that “the White House has wasted another week,” both sides understand where this is going.

The economic recovery, although appearing to pick up steam with this week’s jobs report, is still fragile.

With the Democrats having the upper hand and polls showing the public will largely blame Republicans if January 1 comes with no deal to avert a potential shock to the economy, one is likely to be reached at the 11th hour, even if it means the Republicans employ the ‘Doomsday Plan’. Unlike the Hyrda, at least 241 heads will be doing something in concert, even if it’s merely acknowledging that they still exist.


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