Meet the Few, the Proud, the Republican Defectors on Taxes

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 30 2012 3:40 PM

Meet the Few, the Proud, the Republican Defectors on Taxes

Coverage of the fiscal cliff fight suffers from a common problem: Dyscalculia. Every Republican bolting from orthodoxy and saying he's open to a vote for something is treated like a crack in a dam. It's not at all clear that the bolters have that much power.

First, here's the guide I use to judge the deal-ish nature of a Republican: The roll call on the 2011 debt limit compromise. A total of 174 Republicans voted for the final bill, many of whom had pledged not to increase the debt limit. In the Senate, 28 of 47 Republicans voted for it.

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The "just pass a deal now that increases top rates" caucus: Tom Cole (OK), Mike Simpson (ID), Bob Dold (IL), Mary Bono Mack (CA). All of them voted for the 2011 deal. And in the House, that's basically it.

The "pass a comprehensive plan that raises top rates" caucus: Lindsey Graham (SC), Bob Corker (TN). Corker voted for the deal; Graham did not.

And... hurm, I expected this to be a longer list, but that's about as many Republicans as have actually emerged and said they're willing to deal. According to Republicans, there's a far larger group of members angry at the White House's dealing thus far, such as the leak of the 28-minute phone call between Obama and Boehner that resolved nothing. Cole, the dealmaker, is among the members irritated at the White House's opening offer for a long-term deal. It's in the interest of Democrats to pretend that the other side is cracking, but that really hasn't happened yet.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.