Senate Republicans and the Lost Art of Negotiation
So let’s get this straight.
In an attempt to extend current income tax rates for a measly two years, Senate Republicans are getting ready to cave on a year long fight to ensure that additional unemployment benefits are paid for, reinstate the death tax, renew the President’s welfare spending in the tax code (the Making Work Pay tax credit which is a subsidy to people who don’t pay taxes), and probably a number of other expensive odds and ends by the time the final package is finished. Plus, most troubling because it involves national security, Senate Republicans are proving amenable to building time into the schedule for the flawed New START if a tax deal goes through. There have even been some rumors of attaching a debt limit increase to the package.
Remember that very few independent observers think that Republicans are in a weak negotiating position. Democrats control the White House and the Congress until January. They have had countless opportunities over two years to prevent the tax increase scheduled for January 1, but have chosen to play politics and promote class warfare. Economists from the left and the right have stated that a tax increase will be extremely detrimental to the economy. If Democrats—the party of tax hikes—were to say no to a clean, two year extension of tax rates because they were so concerned with jamming through additional spending, there is no question that they would be blamed by the public. Republicans, having offered to accept a shorter term extension (which itself is a huge concession) rather than push for a permanent extension alone, would have attempted to forge a bipartisan compromise already and could then be free to push for a longer, permanent extension in January that the President would ultimately be forced to swallow.
But no. Senate Republicans are panicking and giving up what they need not. Particularly galling, besides expediting New START, is the ongoing effort of Senator Kyl to reinstate the death tax, which expired a year ago. I don’t think his well-known compromise effort with Senator Lincoln to have a 35% rate with a $5 million exemption ever made sense, but it certainly doesn’t make sense now that the death tax is zero and after the last election with a new political makeup in the House. Republicans should be insisting that the death tax remain dead as part of their negotiations. And of course, Republicans are always willing to compromise on spending by giving up on the principle that unemployment benefits be paid for. A one-year extension of UI benefits will cost about $54 billion, and the President’s Making Work Pay tax credits will cost about $62 billion.
Whatever happened to “elections have consequences?” Don’t expect Senate Republicans to know the answer.