The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol is telling The Wall Street Journal's editorial board to give up, and stop insisting that House Republicans have much leverage at all on the fiscal cliff — or any, should we go over it. It's a sign that maybe there's an emerging conservative consensus, given the growing number of Republican lawmakers suggesting the party should cave on lettings tax rates go up for the top 2 percent of income earners. Republican Sen. Bob Corker said on Fox News Sunday, "There is a growing group of folks that are looking at this and realizing that we don’t have a lot of cards on the tax issue before year end... A lot of people are putting forth a theory, and I actually think it has merit, where you go ahead give the president the two percent increase that he is talking about — the rate increase on the top two percent — and all of a sudden the shift goes back to entitlements." Could this mean we're getting closer to a deal?
Certainly, there are still holdouts. The Journal editorial claims that Republicans will have more leverage if we go over the cliff.
It's certainly true that Republicans can't stop a tax rate increase if Mr. Obama is determined to make it happen. The Bush-era rates automatically go up on January 1, and the House can't extend them alone.
But Mr. Obama also can't get what he wants without House Republicans. He needs their votes to extend current rates for lower-income taxpayers, as well as to prevent the Alternative Minimum Tax from hitting 27 million more taxpayers... Senate Democrats running for re-election in 2014 won't want that on their resume.
Kristol's response? Come on, guys. Will House Republicans really block Democratic legislation to cut taxes for "the vast majority of taxpayers"? That seems unlikely.
President Obama will be beating the drums for this tax cut. Senate Democrats will pass this tax cut. If Senate Republicans vote against it, it won't be "Senate Democrats running for re-election in 2014" who will have a tax hike on their resumes. It will be Senate Republicans who will have voted against cutting taxes. And if House Republicans block such legislation, it will be they, and they alone, insisting on higher taxes.
Of course they won't. Republicans will fold with lightning speed after we go over the tax cliff on January 1.
The Journal is giving bad advice, Kristol says. Following it would mean turning "a manageable tactical retreat in December into a panicked strategic rout."
Of course, Kristol has indicated that raising taxes might not be the worst thing in the world, saying right after the election, "It won't kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires." Still, lots of liberal writers, like New York's Jonathan Chait, have made the case that Obama's leverage goes up dramatically if we go over the cliff. It's significant we're seeing the same argument from a Fox News pundit who edits The Weekly Standard.