As the first day of the New Year waned, the Republican-led U.S. House took up the bill approved by the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. The deal was brokered by GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the No. 2 Democrat, Vice President Joe Biden. It was sold as the best deal that could be made, but at the outset, House Republicans, notably majority leader Eric Cantor, opposed the bill that passed 89-8 in the Senate in the wee hours of 2013.
The measure included no spending cuts — none, nada, zilch. Like other deals the Democrats agree to, spending cuts are to be negotiated some time in the future when the stars are aligned properly and no domestic program will be reduced, Social Security checks will keep increasing with no change in the eligibility age and Medicaid will march on unimpeded.
The deal would hike taxes on individuals earning more than $400,000 and households with more than $450,000 income, cut loopholes and deductions for the top income bracket and send the estate tax from 35 percent to 40 percent for estates over $5 million. It would at least do away with the alternative minimum tax that would soak millions of middle income taxpayers.
Giving impetus to the opposition was a foreboding report from the Congressional Budget Office showing that the Biden-McConnell bill would be expected to swell the federal deficit by almost $4 trillion over 10 years. Given the tax-and-spend approach of the Democrats, is it any wonder that House Republicans would balk at the “compromise?”
So now that we’re officially over that dreaded fiscal cliff, who is right? Is this compromise good or bad? It was terrible in the opinion of Donald Trump, the uninhibited Republican business tycoon. He said, “Obama and the Democrats are laughing at the deal they just made. The Republicans got nothing!” He added, “the Republicans may be the worst negotiators in history!” It’s hard to argue with him on the facts as reported.
But disagreeing was my favorite U.S. senator, Johnny Isakson, the Georgia Republican known for common sense and the ability to work out reasonable compromises with the opposing party. In a statement from his office, Isakson said he voted for the deal “because it protects 99 percent of Americans from a tax increase, permanently protects tens of thousands of farmers and family businesses from having to pay the estate tax upon the death of a loved one and permanently fixes the alternative minimum tax to protect some 30 million households a year from having to pay it.”
Those are good reasons for vote for a deal. But were they enough, standing alone? Can the good senator and his GOP colleagues depend on whatever promises, if any, that the Democrats made to actually cut spending in the future?
Isakson closed his statement by saying, “it is time for the president to get serious about spending cuts and entitlement reforms.” Amen — and good luck, Senator.