In an ill-advised move, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, attempted to pass his own version of a compromise to avoid sharp tax increases and budget cuts from taking effect Jan. 1. The effort never made it to the House floor because ultraconservatives in his party balked at any tax increases.
If there is any doubt remaining among the American public that what goes on in Congress is purely a matter of party politics, then House Speaker John Boehner's failure to rally his own party to pass an alternative plan for preventing deep spending cuts and sharp tax increases from taking effect Jan. 1 should put all doubt to rest.
Boehner, R-Ohio, who has been negotiating with President Obama on a plan to prevent some of the Bush-era tax cuts from expiring at the end of the year, tried to schedule a House of Representatives vote on an alternative to what he and the president have reportedly discussed. The move backfired so badly the vote never took place, and Congress went home for the Christmas holiday.
Should an agreement fail to be reached by Dec. 31, Americans across the economic spectrum will begin paying higher taxes, and federal budgets will begin experiencing cuts. Economic experts say the effects of failure to reach an agreement will be negligible in the beginning, but could work to seriously slow the economic recovery if negotiations lag.
Boehner encountered opposition to his plan — which would have kept tax cuts in place for earners with incomes under $1 million, instead of the $400,000 threshold proposed by the president — from the far right wing of the Republican Party. Without that group, his bill would not have received the majority of the majority that is customary for speaker-sponsored legislation.
Boehner and Obama appeared to be getting closer to a consensus before the "Plan B" fiasco. If Boehner is serious about reaching a compromise, he may have to go around the ultra-conservatives and court House Democrats.
The key word in the previous sentence is compromise. November's elections did little to change the balance of power in Washington. Obama, a Democrat, won a second term, and Republicans retained control of the House. What that should tell both parties is that the public wants some of what Democrats and Republicans are selling. In other words, they want compromise on the hard issues.
Ignoring the so-called fiscal cliff while posturing for primary voters back home is a recipe for disaster. Members of Congress are elected to solve problems and help keep the country strong. Ignoring the financial realities that plague the country in favor of ill-informed rhetorical blather will neither solve problems nor keep us strong.