The news releases arrived via email at almost the exact same time Wednesday. The liberal Campaign for America’s Future was screaming for “No Deal” and warning of a “Grand Swindle” of cuts to Social Security and Medicare should President Obama go wobbly in his fiscal cliff negotiations.
At the other end of the spectrum, the plea by the conservative Americans for Prosperity -- an organization backed by the Koch Brothers -- warned of House Speaker John Boehner’s position offering a “trillion dollar plus tax increase” in order to get some nebulous spending cuts down the road.
As the two men who must settle this get bombarded from their flanks, the fiscal cliff has become a mudslide.
“I hope he understands that we’re encouraging him and helping him do the right thing,” Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity tells NBC News, following Boehner’s inability to get enough members of his caucus to vote for Plan B, Thursday night.
Boehner’s income tax-centric idea would have let Bush-era rates expire on yearly income above $1 million or more. The speaker pointed out that was a fraction of 1% of American taxpayers.
Still, many Tea Party-aligned rank-and-file in the GOP caucus refused to go along with anything that could be construed as a tax hike, even if it was for a relative handful of the population, and with the increase being automatic as the Bush tax cuts expire.
Never mind that. Phillips says AFP let GOP members know “this was absolutely an important vote, and that we were going to be ‘key-voting’ these tax increase votes” when it comes to rating the legislators.
“We’re not saying we’re going to go out and primary [target] Republicans who voted for” Boehner’s measure. “But we were saying this is an important vote. Don’t walk away from the core values of not raising taxes.”
Since no vote was taken, it’s conjecture on how many Republican House members refused to go along with Boehner, but suffice it to say there would not have been 218 votes to get a majority in the chamber. Democrats were certainly not going to help.
But in the end, the caucus rabblerousing undercuts Boehner’s negotiating prowess with the president, since any eventual deal, if there is one that includes a whiff of tax increases, will now require Democratic votes.
Phillips recognizes the straitjacket Boehner’s now in, with his conservative base and the White House tightening the straps.
“But in these near-term negotiations, it does make it more difficult, frankly, to do what he shouldn’t be doing anyway, which is raise taxes.”
For Phillips, it’s a matter of preventing Congress from approving tax hikes, which are binding, while promises of spending cuts are fleeting.