Dear Media: Please Don't Fall For John Boehner's Silly Process Games

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 27 2012 12:12 PM

Dear Media: Please Don't Fall For John Boehner's Silly Process Games

I see some disturbing signs on Twitter that people in the media are falling for John Boehner's gimmick of trying to kick action to the Senate.

This is a transparent and silly negotiating ploy. Right now, Democrats have two different offers on the table. One is a narrow bill that's already passed the Senate that would fully extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone with an AGI under $250,000 while letting the Bush rates expire for wealthier households. House Republicans could pass that bill, thus reducing taxes on rich and middle class Americans alike relative to current law. With that done, congress and the White House could start discussing other aspects of the fiscal cliff if they care to. Alternatively, the president has put an offer on the table that involves a more tax increases than that but also a 1:1 ratio of tax increases relative to current policy and spending cuts relative to current law. If John Boehner is willing and able to deliver even a relatively small number of House Republican votes for that plan, then it will clearly pass the Senate.

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But Boehner doesn't want to do either of those things. So fair enough.

But the thing that Boehner does want to do—his "Plan B" bill to extend Bush era rates for everyone earning under $1 million—doesn't even have the votes to pass the House of Representatives. Given that reality, if Boehner wants an alternative to the Senate Democrats offer or the White House offer the onus on him is to abandon the (pointless) quest for 218 Republican votes and try to come up with something that he'll agree to and that will attract enough votes from House Democrats to pass over the objections of the right wing of his caucus. If he doesn't want to pass the senate bill and he doesn't want to pass the White House bill and he doesn't want to try to bargain with House Democrats, then going "over the cliff" is inevitable. 

That's fine if that's what he wants. Personally, I think there's a lot to be said in favor of negotiating from the 2013 baseline rather than the 2012 baseline. But the holdup is Boehner and Boehner's caucus. Anything that both the White House and John Boehner agree to can pass the senate. Everyone knows that.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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