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Tilting at Windmills

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December 1, 2010

ALL 42 SENATE REPUBLICANS ANNOUNCE HOSTAGE PLAN.... The AP had an item late last night, noting that Senate Republicans were circulating a letter, "quietly collecting signatures" on a plan to "block action on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending."

This morning, the Senate GOP leadership unveiled their letter -- signed by literally all 42 members of the Republican caucus -- declaring their intention to hold the chamber hostage until the tax policy debate is resolved.

"[W]e write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate's attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike."

In practical terms, this means that the Senate Republican caucus will join arms and kill literally every piece of legislation in the lame-duck session -- New START, funding U.S. troops, the DREAM Act, etc. -- until the government is fully funded and they're satisfied with the outcome of the debate on tax policy.

When the letter was being circulated yesterday, there was some hope that some of the less-conservative members -- the Maine "moderates," for example -- might not go along with the hostage-taking strategy. This morning, however, we learned that every Republican is on board with this plan. Even Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is saying our national security needs through the pending arms treaty must take a back seat to tax cuts.

Also note the context: President Obama hosted a meeting at the White House yesterday with congressional leaders of both parties, and afterwards, everyone was all smiles. There was a renewed commitment to try to work together, find common ground, with an emphasis on bipartisanship.

A few hours later, the hostage letter was circulated by the GOP leadership, and less than a day after the bipartisan confab, literally every member of the Senate Republican caucus effectively told the world, "Screw bipartisanship; we're playing hardball until we get what we want on tax cuts for the wealthy."

How Democrats -- on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue -- respond to this gambit remains to be seen.

* Postscript: Also note the unstated truth behind the threat -- Republicans will block literally everything until they're satisfied, at which point, they'll try to block literally everything anyway.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (56)

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"...and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers...."

That's a bold-faced lie on the part of the Republicans. Is there any mainstream news source that will call them out on it? On ANY of their "hostage" demands?

Posted by: June on December 1, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

You know how it's not a good idea to just send out certain emails without thinking about the consequences first? Well the Republicans may have sent one of those "emails" out without thinking about the consequences. The Democrats and the White House should tar and feather them with this. They're signatures are on it...all of them. Wad that letter up and ram it down their collective throat.

I doubt we'll see anything from the President beyond some weak-kneed kumbya plea for co-operation, but what we need to see is the President drop a hydrogen bomb on them...they gave him the target. Ball and chain the Republican's boner for the wealthiest of wealthy's tax cuts to the extension of unemployment benefits...force the tea baggers to choose sides on that one.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 1, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Free advice to Democratic leadership in Senate: Call their bluff, and bring up every piece of stalled legislation. Negotiate nothing, and be fully ready to let the Bush tax cuts expire.

Posted by: Andrew in Berkeley on December 1, 2010 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

The Truth is: GOP will not do one thing in the next two years except oppose 100% of Obama's bills. And Obama doesn't seem inclined to do anything about it. And neither do the Dems as a whole. And certainly no Media outlets will say anything but "Congress Fails".

Posted by: T2 on December 1, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama told GOP leaders behind closed doors Tuesday that he had failed to reach across party lines enough during his first two years in office, a senior administration official told CNN.

...on the twitter chucktoddler sez:

Gibbs confirms Cantor statement that POTUS admitted he could have reached out more but Gibbs said GOPers did not offer any similar retort

Posted by: We are idiots on December 1, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Nuclear Option.

Posted by: martin on December 1, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

You cannot govern out of fear.

Posted by: impartial on December 1, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with SaintZak, this is a blessing in disguise if the Dems handle it right, though we've little reason to believe they will.

The voters overwhelmingly voted for bipartisanship, and the Senate GOP just laughed in their faces. Obama has just effectively been slapped with the glove, and now he has to decide whether to accept the duel or once again capitulate to the demands of the conservatives - who are in the minority and will remain so for another 2 years!

By the way, how's that proposal to freeze the salaries Federal workers coming along, Mr. President? Got anymore bright ideas for "unilateral bipartiship"?

Posted by: Kiweagle on December 1, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Will Obama give us more of his community-organizing bullshit and continue to try and work out pseudo-compromises with the Republicans while the lame-duck session (and his presidency) slips away, or will he finally grow a set, play hard-ball politics, show some sustained passion about something, and use the bully pulpit the way presidents need to do in order to get stuff done?

(A failure on DADT or middle class tax cuts will not necessarily be a bad thing if Obama sticks to his guns and fights. And fights and fights. But his supporters, and more generally the American people, are dispirited because the guy just shows no inclination whatsoever to fight for anything. And if he won't fight, the effort seems lost from the start.)

Posted by: sjw on December 1, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

I wont hold my breath for the media to call this out as what it is...dereliction of duty in the name of political grandstanding...

Cant he Obama Administration please realize these people are NOT interested in good faith negotiation and end this silly song and dance routine to prove that Democrats are Bipartisan.

The gloves need to come off b/c less than 24 hours after promising to work in good faith Republicans almost immediately turn around and publically stab the Preseident and the Congress in the back. This is unconscionable even for Republicans

The motto for all Demcrats going forward should be: CALL THEM OUT

Pubically call out Republicans every single time they put party interests ahead of the American people. Be it START, unemplyment benefits or DADT; THE TIME IS NOW to tie all three of these overwhelmingly popular items together and show the American people which party really is on their side

Steve you should have a running clock posted on your website counting forward from the minute the Repaublicans took the middle class hostage with this letter. If every progressive blog put a similar counter on their website the MSM would have to eventually notice and report objectively.....right??

Posted by: lib4 on December 1, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

AP says the START Treaty will not be affected.


Posted by: pol on December 1, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is addicted to process even though the process has degenerated to stale farce. At some point, you have to fight even if it means ultimaely losing. What liberals crave, the nation needs: a president who's willing to lead and show that by underlining rather than blurring crucial distinctions. Republicans are running circles around Obama primarily because he's so easily cowed.

Posted by: walt on December 1, 2010 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

So how many columns will we read in the near future with the theme "If only the Democrats would search for more ways to work with the Republicans"?

Answer: far too many.

I sure wish we had the left leaning press the Right-wingers claim we have.

Posted by: nerd on December 1, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Once again we see that the GOP definition of "bipartisan compromise" is "Democrats do what we want".

I hope the White House realizes how big an insult to the prestige of the President this is, and responds appropriately. By which I mean serious smack-down, not make-nice.

Yeah, I know pigs don't fly. I can still hope. I mean, how many more times can the GOP fart in his face before he gets sick of it?

Posted by: biggerbox on December 1, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

We have finally spiraled into total MADNESS!*

*With a special thanks to 'low-information voters,' and those who sat on their asses. The knuckledraggers have won! The country is lost...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 1, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

So all the talk of movement on DADT and START the last couple of days was just a clever bluff. Get the Dems to think that there's an implicit deal here: give us the full monty on taxes, and then enough of us will join you to pass your two priorities. Then, after the tax cuts are approved, find more reasons to delay/stop/ignore DADT and START.

As usual, the Republicans are playing (very effectively) to win, while Democrats are playing (not very effectively) to tie.

Posted by: Basilisc on December 1, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

At first I thought that the post above from "We are idiots" was a joke: Obama, so CNN supposedly reported, told the Republicans yesterday that he should have reached out MORE to them over the past two years.

Holy Jesus, it ain't no joke!

We're fucked.

Posted by: sjw on December 1, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Steve - I'm glad you specifically mentioned that Lugar was a signatory to this letter. There has been so much talk about him being one of the "serious" Republicans, and while I do think he has done a good job PR-wise in crafting that reputation, his signature on this letter should put the notion that he's anything other than a typical disingenuous Republican hack to bed.

Posted by: Egan on December 1, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

CRAZY RIGHTWING:[W]e write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.

Extending the tax cuts for incomes under $250,000 IS a tax cut for ALL Americans.

Posted by: Joe Friday on December 1, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats, including Obama, will do what they always do in this situation: curl up in the fetal position and whine. Two years ago I really Hoped there was going to be some Change in the Democratic Party. I played Charlie Brown to Obama's Lucy.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on December 1, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Obama must stand fast, or his presidency and reelection are toast. He must give the nation a civics lesson from the oval office or some other even-republicans-must-see venue. He needs to explain how the Senate "works". How 41 trumps 59. He should use simple, clear graphs a la Perot, to explain the two tax proposals (Rachel Maddow's balloon comparison comes to mind), and also to explain that the recent past has helped only the wealthiest get wealthier, while the rest of us tread water and fear unemployment. That the wealthy have gotten wealthier not because they're working harder than us, but because years of lack of regulation, union-busting,corporate welfare, and the wholesale dismemberment of the middle class has led to huge fortunes that are now pulling every lever of government to get bigger.

If the press won't call out Republican lies, then he must. He must become the nation's teacher, rather than continue with his pleadings for cooperation that make him seem weaker with each day. He must be brutally frank and speak as if he were horse-trading with the whole country, rather than a few legislators.

They are threatening to shut down the government, and Obama must demonstrate that he can win such a big fight.

Posted by: Keeping Track on December 1, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds like the debate has been resolved. Congress isn't cutting anyone's taxes b/c the GOP thinks it's good politics to keep the tax rate where it is and blaming Democrats for not lowering it.

Next issue.

Now that money can be spent stimulating the economy for regular folk, not giving tax breaks to people making over $100K.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on December 1, 2010 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

And you're surprised... why?

Posted by: dalloway on December 1, 2010 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Something went on behind those closed doors that we don't know about. The Republicans doing this after the Pres. sounded so reasonable makes it look to me that they have to grandstand in this way to keep their base from realizing that they are going to have to cooperate.

I wonder what Obama did behind closed doors that made them change their real tune while covering it over with this blah blah blah? What did he threaten them with -- such that they actually will have to knuckle under and start to help in governing? I note, for example, that Voinovich and McCain are now saying they might vote for START.

This letter is the Republicans' covering up their actual need to cooperate in governing with the same kind of lying blather that they always indulge in.

I keep wondering if the Wikileaks exposure of how ludicrous Bush was on foreign policy might have something to do with it.

Posted by: jjm on December 1, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Bennet accidentally tarred and feathered them on C-Span, but he wasn't explicit enough.

Posted by: Carol on December 1, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

re: "Then, after the tax cuts are approved, find more reasons to delay/stop/ignore DADT and START..."

Agreed - there's no reason to believe that, even after they get their tax cuts, they'll let anything else proceed. They'll get their cuts, then try to run out the clock.

re: "Something went on behind those closed doors that we don't know about..."

I made a comment yesterday about watching the post-summit press conference - I was in a sports bar, and couldn't here what the Republicans were saying, but could read their body language, which hardly projected confidence. There was, perhaps, even a glint of fear in their eyes.

Turn the sound down and decide for yourself:


Boehner look like he needs a drink.

Posted by: delNorte on December 1, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

@ Jane
That's a bold-faced lie on the part of the Republicans. Is there any mainstream news source that will call them out on it? On ANY of their "hostage" demands?

I know it was rhetorical. You are pretty funny . From what planet do you come from. It will be repeated by the MSM as if it is a fact and that it is all the democrats fault. Those poor billionaires won't be able to trickle down any of that job creating largess.

Posted by: John R on December 1, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

I guess Obama didn't grovel hard enough yesterday?

Posted by: kc on December 1, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

has anyone been to CNN? The headline atually says, 'dems put tax cuts first'. Google republican lame duck, and you'll find no news about this at all. the press are determined to get this tax cut and they're helping republicans game the system to do it.

Posted by: kara on December 1, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I expect that Obama's response will be to announce to the American people that "there will be peace in our time" and that the GOP will figure "they own that colored boy now". Pathetic--not the GOP playing hardball, that Obama and the Dems will cave.

Posted by: Terry on December 1, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

"be worthy of the Senate's attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike."

You know, I wish I could write a memo like that, and simply lie instead of telling the truth, and no-one would question me. "job killing tax hike." That's simply a lie. Higher taxes on the rich do not kill jobs. That's proven. And it's not a tax-hike, it returns taxes to where they were in the 1990s, and where they SHOULD have stayed all along.

GOP = bunch of shamless liars.

Posted by: LL on December 1, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

It's really time for Reid to show a little bit of backbone and prove that he's still the majority leader.

He needs to schedule a vote on tax cuts as the LAST bit of business to be completed in the lame duck, and send a clear message that if this is what's important to them then the Republicans better not lallygag on the rest. Obstructionism will mean that the Bush Tax Hike happens as planned.

Posted by: Shantyhag on December 1, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

The campaign season never ends.

Which group will produce and air a brutally blunt ad, exposing the repubs as the heartless assholes they are? I will send them money.

Such an ad needs to be aired prime time, preferably during one of the more competitive NFL games. It should also send a veiled message to Dems that if they don't step up on this issue, they are no better than the repubs.

It's time to throw some rhetorical molotovs before the real ones start flying.

Posted by: bdop4 on December 1, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Is it second ammendment solution time yet? Thank you Sharron Angle, if there is one thing I learned from your lunatic attempt at becoming a US Senator... I saw Dick Durbin on The Last Word yesterday and I wanted to scream.. "I'm an optimist" he stated... I will vote to throw every Dem on my ballot out on their ass in 2012 and then quietly move to Vancouver and laugh my ass off.

Posted by: An Angry Trollop on December 1, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

It is pretty obvious what happened yesterday, the Republicans met with Obama, and he presented himself as weak, weak, weak. They decided that he is a pushover.

You don't negotiate with hostage takers. It is time for the President to call the bastards out. Right now. Not some future date.

I doubt anybody in the White House is smart enough to understand the simple truth of this situation, but if he lets them win on this one, claiming the importance of getting other agenda items through, he is done. His presidency ends now, he won't be reelected.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 1, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

By the way there is a Continuing Resolution in need of passage. Does the Republican hostage taking extend to that CR? If so are they prepared to close down the government before Christmas?

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 1, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

pack it up go home do not pass goal do not collect $200 and never come back

Posted by: iyoumeweus on December 1, 2010 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I'm forgetting something, but how is this a change of policy for the GOP Senate?

Posted by: Jim on December 1, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

You understand it.The Repubs have painted themselves into a corner with the deficit proclamations.
The president has given them room to turn around and get out of the corner so they can vote for important legislation.
He talks about serious matters in private and doesn't flail about, using harsh words in public.
Using harsh rhetoric shows that you are weak.
I will watch what happens.
Obama doesn't usually take the bait and react, he either ignores something or responds after thinking about it.
The Repubs have already gone back on the earmarks pledge.
Repubs are campaigning. The president is governing.

Posted by: Maude on December 1, 2010 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight: The Republicans oppose extending unemployment payments, even though it's favored by the majority of voters, because it will "expand the deficit," but they want to extend tax cuts to those who don't need them, even though it's opposed by the majority of the voters because it is blatantly unfair and blows a gaping hole in the deficit. Nevertheless the Democrats are incapable of figuring out how to use this issue to rally a majority of the voters to their side?

Shmucks! When they've handed you a hammer, bowed their heads, and dared you to hit them with it, and the vast majority of your party--and most everybody else--are lined up on the sidelines yelling, "Smash the fuckers!" you don't stand there like an idiot looking at the hammer in your hands and asking, "Shouldn't we compromise on this and hit ourselves as well, just to show how bipartisan and reasonable we are?"

Cowardice has never been an effective weapon against thugs and bullies. It's an early lesson that we all learned in kindergarten the first time the big kid tried to take away our crayons.

The Democratic Party has degenerated from FDR's "I welcome their hatred!" to Obama's "let me extend a hand." It no longer serves any useful purpose for anybody. In all honesty, it needs to dry up die.

I was vehemently opposed to Ralph Nader in 2000, but I'm beginning to believe his problem wasn't so much that he was wrong, but that he was right too early.

Posted by: Chaim Rosemarin on December 1, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans would have never attempted this kind of horseshit if Hillary was president, if only because she would have grabbed Boehner by his figurative balls and said "Bring it on, leatherface. We'll make this 1993 all over again."

Obama is starting to make Jimmy Carter look like Rambo.

Posted by: Jose Arteaga on December 1, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats plan should be simple:

1] Stall until the tax cuts expire.

2] Propose tax cuts for the middle class.

3] Watch the GOP twist in the wind.

Posted by: chrenson on December 1, 2010 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I have been reading the comments to the AP story posted at Yahoo. Typically they are very, very right wing. Today, hatred of the Senate Republicans is in full bloom. I think Mitch is screwing the pooch on this position.

I still think Obama should come out strongly on the letter.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 1, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

"I know it was rhetorical."

@John R -- you could have stopped right there, because yes, it *was* rhetorical.

Posted by: June on December 1, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I think it might be about time to have some serious discussion of impeaching these guys. It really doesn't matter which side of the political fence you may be on, the reality is they are NOT doing the job for which they were elected, which is to represent their constituents and actually DO SOME WORK up there in Washington.

Our representatives need to know we don't WANT any more time-wasting. We want to see things get fixed. We want ACTION and IDEAS, not more idle posturing.

Posted by: Liz on December 1, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I notice that the our-way-or-no-way letter signed by all 42 Republican Senators is dated November 29, 2010, that is, the day before their leaders went to a meeting to talk about bipartisan solutions. And presumably a lot of the signature-gathering was done while the meeting was actually going on.

Such is their idea of dealing in good faith.

Posted by: tamiasmin on December 1, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Greg Sargeant is reporting that McConnell may be bluffing, and that Collins and others may defect if DADT is brought up for a vote, based on emails he's had with Collins' spokesman.


Posted by: jsj on December 1, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly, the republicans would have to be crazy to let anything pass prior to January. In January they will have a much strong hand; why not wait till then?

Posted by: weichi@weichi.com on December 1, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Can you imagine how the media and GOP would react if the entire Democratic Senate before even being seated in 2006 issued a letter saying they'll block all Republican-backed legislation -- treaties, Defense spending, any positive legislation -- if they don't get their way on a tax bill first?

Posted by: beejeez on December 1, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

As regulars know, I rarely miss a chance to blame Democratic messaging indaequancies and rarely am inclined to let them hide behind complaints about the media - a problem that is hardly new and that Dems should ahve solved long ago.

Still, what I just saw on MSNBC.com is so blatent, I honestly don't know what Dems could do about it. This is the headline at 2:20pm central:

"GOP upset with
Democratic effort
to extend only
middle-class tax cuts --
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's announcement dashes water on goodwill that came out of Tuesday's bipartisan meeting at the White House."

Note that this story is running several hours after Republicans touted their unanimous "we'll do nothing but cut taxes on the rich" letter. but it is Dems breaking the agreement. And the general, low-information public will believe the MSM version, because it is all they will see.

Posted by: zeitgeist on December 1, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

"I played Charlie Brown to Obama's Lucy."

For two years we have seen the Republicans playing the role of Lucy, but the perception is growing that it is Obama playing Lucy. This lame duck session may be his last chance to cut that perception off before it becomes the general public view. If not, he needs to convince Biden to 'spend more time with his family', appoint Hillary to VeeP then suddenly develop 'health issues' that prevent him from continuing in office.

Posted by: Seould on December 1, 2010 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

And none dare call it treason.

Posted by: Reynardine on December 1, 2010 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Zeitgeist, I agree with you 100% about Hillary. If Obama doesn't have the balls to do the job, then he should let someone who does.

Posted by: Jose Arteaga on December 1, 2010 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Doomed on December 1, 2010 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Please Obama don't go along with this. Dems will lose everything in the long run. Call their bluff. 1) Announce that all troops will start being brought back because republicans won't approve of funding the troops in harm's way during a war.
2)Eliminate from the budget immediately anything which funds any item on the republican's agenda such as oil subsidies, ear marks in republican districts, farm subsidies for the wealthy etc.

3)The expiration of tax cuts for the wealthy along with the estate tax which only affects the 1% of wealthiest Americans alone will bring in enough revenue to run the government.

Next set up a national works program building windmills and solar roofs in all neighborhoods across the nation with products manufactured in America (follow the German plan which led to energy being sold back to the utility companies to offset costs).

If you allow this even once then it will repeat itself again and again.



Remember, there is always the reconciliation process in the senate...that's how the Bush tax cuts for billionaires got passed so why not use it for middle class tax cuts? McConnel can't block that.

btw...Hillary supporters should not forget that she sided with McCain...McCain?...against Obama's experience demonstrating her willingness to compromise with the enemy just to get her way. I love her but I don't see her as being any different than Obama on these issues.

Posted by: bjobotts on December 1, 2010 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

So typical of that class. Is the electorate so short on remembrance that we've forgotten where this wreck came from and who delivered it? It was just a few short years ago that anyone who didn't lay down all for national security was branded as a coward and a traitor. Now we must subjugate that for tax cuts? I'm beginning to get what the expats were saying, there are no, and I mean NO, statesmen left here, just rank politicians, taking no prisoners, and thinking that is good policy. We're headed for a world of hurt.

Posted by: snowingeorgia on December 1, 2010 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK



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