President Obama will meet with congressional leaders today at the White House where, if history is any indication , he will give another ineffective lecture that does nothing to avoid the $500 billion in tax hikes and $100 billion in spending cuts scheduled to begin on January 1st.
Obama could have returned from Hawaii and begun working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to craft a bill that would have prevented any tax hikes on incomes below $250,000, and maybe even included an extension of unemployment benefits, but it does not appear Democrats even want to attempt such a last minute effort. “I have to be very honest,” Reid said yesterday on the Senate floor, “I don’t know time-wise hot it can happen now.”
So now what?
Speaker John Boehner notified House Republicans yesterday that not only should they return to Washington by Sunday, but they should also be prepared to stay in town all of next week. That means nothing will happen in either chamber of Congress until Boehner is reelected Speaker on January 3rd. In all likelihood, House Republicans will then also immediately pass the exact same legislation they passed this summer, extending all the current tax rates and redirecting the scheduled defense cuts into more domestic spending cuts. They will then ask Obama and Reid to craft their own bill addressing these problems in the Senate.
In other words, nothing will have changed. We will be right back where we are today, waiting for Obama and Reid to act.
Democrats will have a slightly more liberal Senate to work with next year, but it is not at all clear how many more votes for Obama’s preferred outcome he will have gained. If anything the Senate will have less moderates (in both parties) meaning Obama’s chances for a “grand bargain” will have shrunk, not grown.
And while it is likely House Republicans will agree to some type of tax cut in the new year, if anything their opposition to undoing the domestic side of the spending sequestration, let alone agreeing to increase in spending, will rise. “People who have contacted me are asking me to stand firm on what really matters, which is the spending side of the equation,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., told Politico.
Obama may have won reelection in 2012 by a four point, 51 percent to 47 percent, margin. But 51 percent of that very same electorate told exit pollsters that, “Government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.” Meanwhile only 43 percent said, “Government should do more to solve problems.” That is hardly a mandate for Obama’s ambitious second term agenda.