Political Animal


July 03, 2011 11:35 AM Obstinacy vs. unanimity

By Steve Benen

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), making his 18 gajillionth appearance on a Sunday morning show, was asked on CNN this morning about Republican willingness to increase revenue as part of a debt-reduction deal. He replied with a mixed signal.

“Jon Kyl was in negotiations with the vice president and he said there were certain revenue raisers in other areas that perhaps we could work on, but to somehow say we’re going to raise Americans taxes, anybody’s taxes, I think … it’s a principle we promised the American people last November and that we have to stick to,” McCain said.

I’m not entirely sure what that means, but McCain probably sees a distinction between “taxes” and “revenue raisers.”

And that’s a good thing.

Just two days ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not only said he wants a 100-0 split when it comes to cuts vs. revenue, but also said his entire caucus is united around this point. Republicans, he argued, simply won’t tolerate anything less than everything they want. There can be no compromise; the GOP won’t accept one.

The next question, of course, is pondering whether (and how much) McConnell is posturing. The Minority Leader loves to gain as much leverage as possible as part of any set of negotiations, so it’s hardly a stretch to think he’d start off by effectively arguing, “No new revenue. Period.”

But as the process continues, it’s worth remembering that Republican attitudes on this are more diverse than McConnell likes to let on.

To be sure, we’ve seen plenty of leading former Republican officeholders (Pete Domenici, Alan Simpson) argue that their party has to accept additional revenue. We’ve also seen Reagan’s former team, including Reagan’s former budget director, say things like, “It is simply unrealistic to say that raising revenue isn’t part of the solution. It’s a measure of how far off the deep end Republicans have gone with this religious catechism about taxes.”

But let’s not forget some members from McConnell’s own caucus who’ve suddenly gotten quiet. Just a few months ago, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said that to tackle the debt, additional revenue has to be “part of the mix.” Soon after, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), while calling for his colleagues to accept sacrifices, said, “My taxes are going to go up. Sorry, they’re going to go up. This country cannot get out of this mess with the behavior that we’re exhibiting in this body, and if we fail to do what is necessary for our country at this critical time in our juncture, history will deem us absolutely incompetent.”

Let’s also not forget that, just two weeks ago, most of the Republicans in the Senate voted to scrap an ethanol tax break, despite pleas from right-wing activists that this would count as a tax increase.

And now John McCain is opening the door to working on “certain revenue raisers.”

The point is, the public position of Republican leaders is that GOP lawmakers simply won’t accept, under any circumstances, any plan that brings in so much as a penny of additional revenue. I don’t doubt that many Republicans actually think this way, but the party isn’t nearly as unanimous on this point as the leadership’s rhetoric would have us believe.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • hank on July 03, 2011 11:52 AM:

  • rbe1 on July 03, 2011 11:57 AM:

    John McCain no longer has a functioning mind. I wouldn't assign any significance to what comes out of his mouth.

  • rob on July 03, 2011 11:58 AM:

    Even the "Amazing Centrist Man" knows one can not try to compromise with Repub-a-Thugs.


    Why does the liberal punditry not get that?!

  • jcricket on July 03, 2011 12:02 PM:

    It's going to take more than a proven principles-challenged Villager sending mixed ambiguous messages on a Sunday morning show that has long since lost any meaningful sense of journalism to get me to even being to think that the Republicans have any sense of duty toward the country as a whole.


  • walt on July 03, 2011 12:09 PM:

    Where are we now? Republicans demanding 100 - 0 and Democrats offering 85 - 15?

    Oh, the drama!

  • tamiasmin on July 03, 2011 12:47 PM:

    100-0 split, you think? It's really more like 110 to -10. Give them everything they're asking for and they'll ask for more. "2.5 trillion in spending cuts and no revenue increases. Thanks, but we also must have a balanced budget amendment and a twelve-month waiting period before an abortion."

    "Oh, and a tricycle."

  • jjm on July 03, 2011 1:05 PM:

    Give them nothing. Look at Deval Patrick's description of Grover Norquist 'hypnotizing' Republicans with the idea they could steal everything in this country with absolute impunity, and then prevent any democratic president from governing.

    If that isn't pure treason, I don't know what is.

    And if ANYONE thinks the Republicans have American interests at heart they are blind fools.

    They've shown themselves to be the party of deceit and treasonous irresponsibility.

  • c u n d gulag on July 03, 2011 1:19 PM:

    The original premise of having a Senator be in office for 6 years, was to kind of indemnify them from the vagaries of extreme mood swings that groups like Teabaggers bring into the equation.

    Yeah, that's working out real well...

    Look, I hate to tell people this, but we're basically approaching 21st Century problems with a system designed in the late 18th, with amendments since then many Conservatives would prefer never to have happened.

    It's no accident that NO country in the world has copied our system, but instead went with a parliamentary one. It is completely dysfunctional.

    This is something we need to do - redo our system of government.

    And that, sadly, will never happen.

  • stormskies on July 03, 2011 1:19 PM:

    Obama should certainly assert his authority relative the the 14th amendment is our Constitution. It's just that fucking simple. And, if he does, there is fucking nothing that the congress can do to stop him minus a resolution by BOTH HOUSES to do so. That ain't gonna happen of course. And because of this that piece of corporate pig shit called Conryn from Texas is saying that to even talk about this is 'crazy talk' as if our Constitution is 'crazy talk'.

  • Texas Aggie on July 03, 2011 1:21 PM:

    What the various members of the national lege say or think is pretty much irrelevant. What matters is what the TP fanatics demand. As long as their base says to push, they'll push even if it means pushing the country off a cliff. These guys are not about to sacrifice anything for their country. Nathan Hale is waiting for them at the Pearly Gates.

  • m2 on July 03, 2011 1:25 PM:

    Uh... they lie?
    They are lying. This is not "opening the door" or anything but re-reassuring dimwit liberals. They are lying.
    You believe McCain again? wth?

  • Trollop on July 03, 2011 1:26 PM:

    "John McCain; Are you a pandering fucking idiot"?

    "I was elected to be and idiot, yes!"

    "Do you think you're the president?"

    "Yes, I am the president of the idiots"..

  • Jerry Elsea on July 03, 2011 1:48 PM:

    David Stockman eased the tax-increase blow by calling the measures "revenue enhancements." If only today's politicians could use a similar euphemism or even the same one. (Nobody would remember its Reagan-era origin.) But tax increases by any name would end up making President Obama look good. So we can expect obstinacy to carry the day in the GOP camp.

  • MFinny on July 03, 2011 1:50 PM:

    The Republican strategy creates a debate between 0% and 10% or 15%. 50/50 cuts to taxes would have been reasonable. 5 to 1 or 10 to 1 cuts to taxes is a huge Republican win. Current Dem leadership is horrible at this.

  • Goldilocks on July 03, 2011 2:01 PM:

    McCain (corrected): but to somehow say we’re going to raise Americans taxes, anybody's taxes, I think... it's a principle we promised [the American people] Grover Norquist last [November] century.

  • jjm on July 03, 2011 2:40 PM:

    By the way, Jerry Brown called the Republicans' bluff--AND the Democrats' willingness to appease the tiny Republican minority to the detriment of the whole state.

    And boy are the Republicans MIFFED. Now they have to explain to their constituents why they will be getting severe budget cuts, too, along with everyone else in CA. Hopefully that will cost them their seats. High time, too!

  • j on July 03, 2011 3:13 PM:

    Republicans want cuts to government spending, they want small government, so why don't they cut down on the number of
    congresspeople, that would help both problems, they are hardly ever working, mostly standing in front of a camera making snarky remarks about the president.
    I wish the senate would pass a bill with cuts and raises in revenue, present it to Boehner and tell him it is his job to get the votes, he does not know how to handle his caucus and is deathly afraid of making a move - wonder where he is hiding!

  • spiny on July 03, 2011 3:38 PM:

    If your party's whole governing philosophy, since St. Ronnie appeared 30 years ago, is that "government is the problem" Do you really think that the idiot base is going to settle for anything less than a shutdown? This is the radical right's golden opportunity to live up to their words- and all the furious winking and nodding to the business community by their corrupt Republican leaders ain't going to slow them down.

    Look, short of the president going on national T.V. and announcing the end of all social programs (Hmmm... come to think of it, that's not out of the question considering Obama's past capitulations) the Frankenstein monster that is the Republican base isn't going to be satisfied with anything less than a full default. Which means the only way to solve this is for Obama to use the constitutional option and then survive the impeachment hearings. I tell you, its going to be fun...

  • j on July 03, 2011 4:42 PM:

    McCain is whining about the drawdown of troops fro Afghanistan, please someone tell him we are broke - I am sure the rethugs will tell him!
    Anyone hear about the Huckabee cruise guests who are unhappy that Obama was elected because of his race?

  • Schtick on July 03, 2011 5:07 PM:

    I'm guilty. I don't watch the Sunday talking heads. I figure if I want to listen to the repub talking points, I can watch Faux Lies and Video Tapes and I hate them. So, I guess I'm as bad as the ones that won't watch anything else but the garbage shows.

    crapcha....Nguyen Natation....I remember him!

  • TCinLA on July 03, 2011 6:09 PM:

    From yesterday's Los Angeles Times (headline: "Deficit Battle Shaping Up As GOP Victory"):

    Some Democrats believe Obama set the stage for the current situation by opening negotiations on deficit reduction this spring with a proposal that contained a 3-to-i ration between spending reductions and tax increases. Administration officials defend that move, saying the president began discussions with what one senior official called "a realistic starting point," not one designed to maximize his bargaining position.

    THIS was their negotiating position? That's what you END UP AT, not the point you start at!!!!!!!

    If I had 2007-2008 to live over again, I would NEVER support this incompetent idiot. It would have been Hillary all the way. No one in the Democratic Party would have let her get away with what we have let this asshole get away with the past two years.

    "Can't we all just get along?" is the equivalent of bringing a wet noodle to a gunfight.

    And now we're stuck with the "energizing" idea of "vote for me, I'm not a far right Republican asshole, I'm just a Rockefeller Republican."

  • Ron Byers on July 03, 2011 8:40 PM:

    I was busy this morning watching paint dry, so I didn't watch the Sunday shows. Were any Democrats or administration officials interviewed? I refuse to watch until administration officials are interviewed as often as the senior senator from dementia.

  • Rick Taylor on July 03, 2011 8:47 PM:

    I'm not going to be happy if Republicans end up compromising, reluctantly allowing 15% of the agreement to be select revenue enhancements, and as a price for their being reasonable, demand that as few votes as possible for the agreement come from Republicans.

  • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© on July 04, 2011 12:39 AM:

    walt on July 03, 2011 12:09 PM:

    Where are we now? Republicans demanding 100 - 0 and Democrats offering 85 - 15?

    Oh, the drama!

    Pretty much. With the added caveat that if (when) the Democrats offer something like 100 - 0, the Republicans will demand more.

    And the Dems will give them more (i.e. take more from the rest of us).

    This country is broken, and its wealthiest citizens are the perps.

  • Xenos on July 04, 2011 2:47 AM:

    The debt limit is just a maguffin... the GOP plan is to force a constitutional crisis, then impeach Obama, and thereby weaken him so much there is a chance to defeat him in 2012. This worked for them last time, and they hope it will work again. It is all they have.

  • mr. irony on July 04, 2011 7:11 AM:

    mccain has a secret plan to fix...

    the debt ceiling..

    got it..thanks..

  • Lance on July 04, 2011 7:18 AM:

    The Republican House has already voted on 'revenue raisers' when they voted to eliminate a woman's tax deduction on health insurance that covers abortion. If their argument there is that 'tax payers' are paying for abortions if women get tax deductions for health insurance, than ALL tax deductions from a base marginal rate are 'paid for' by other tax payers, and thus eliminating those deductions are a valid exercise.

  • Doug on July 04, 2011 8:27 AM:

    Sorry, but some of you are so anxious for a fight, you've apparently left your reasoning abilities behind.
    TCinLA, sure, start off with really, really big demands and be forced to give way time after time after time. What sort of impression would it leave if, week after week, the MSM, trumpeting Republican talking points, broadcast yet another "defeat" for the President? That's some political optics, that is! Guaranteed to increase the number of supporters in 2012.
    Put simply, President Obama knows, as do we, that the current problem regarding the debt/deficit is NOT going to be solved without accepting spending cuts. Therefore, he's put MOST of the cuts he and the Democrats on Capitol Hill can accept, saving a few more for batgaining chips. Meanwhile information is starting to get out to the voting public about exactly what will happen if the debt ceiling isn't raised.
    And how do the Republicans respond? They double-down on their rhetoric and threats about all spending cuts or no deal. It's not that voters in this country are stupid, it's that thay don't pay a lot of attention to politics when there isn't, say, an election looming or a crisis. And collapsing the economy counts as a crisis.
    The President's position, apparently, started out at 3/1 cuts/taxes (75/25), there's even been talk of an offer of 7/1 (87/13) although I'm not certain how genuine it was, and the Republicans STILL bluster and threaten. President Obama and the Democrats are being the adults and the Republicans the spoiled brats and it's starting to get noticed by the public. That is NOT "good news for McCain" or ANY Republican.
    Anyone thinking these spending cuts are a "breaker" in your support for Mr. Obama and the Democrats only need to look at the alternative. That's NOT a reference to a Republican adminsitration, although it could be; it's a reference to the hardship and suffering that will hit 75-80% of the people in this country if the economy IS tanked. The cuts can be restored, IF there's a majority of votes in the House and Senate to do so. Right now, there isn't, but the Republicans are doing their damnedest to see that there will be!
    If the Republicans are really determined to raise the debt only in exchange for spending cuts, there's not much President Obama and the Democratic leaders can do. What they CAN do is set it up so that no amount of "spin" will relieve the Republicans of their responsibility for the ensuing catastrophe.
    Which is exactly what is happening now...