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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Conservatives Sneaking Out of Class on Tax Deal

As the Obama-McConnell tax deal makes its way through Congress with heavy Republican support, it’s interesting to watch the Republicans who’ve decided to publicly come out against it. Rush Limbaugh seems to oppose it just because it’s a deal with Obama. Similarly, Charles Krauthammer fears it will stimulate the economy and save Obama in 2012. Jim DeMint sticks to the Big Two dogmatic principles of no-tax-increases-ever-ever (he interprets the reduction in the estate tax rate as a “tax increase” because there was no estate tax this year) and no-new- spending-without-offsets. Sarah Palin seems to agree.
Mitt Romney probably gets the most attention for his USAToday op-ed coming out against the deal on grounds that temporary tax rates are a bad idea and that the whole UI system needs to be overhauled.
That’s a lot of heavyweight opinion on the Right opposing this deal, even as rank-and-file Republicans appear to support it (according to new polls from Pew and from WaPo/ABC).
Why the dissenting voices? Well, there’s always an appreciative audience among conservatives for anyone opposing bipartisanship; after all, some of the progressive hostility to the deal is based on a desire to emulate the strategic unreasonableness of the Right. But more importantly, you could call it the TARP Factor: the fear of supporting legislation that might turn into a symbol of the hated status quo. So long as it’s manageable, and there are enough Republicans in Congress to get the deal through, quite a few conservatives will inevitably sneak out of class and avoid the risk of raising a hand in support of it.
The real problem could come, of course, if House Democrats succeed in changing the deal (say, by modifying the estate tax provisions to get a little closer to the rates and exemptions that prevailed before 2001), and there’s a real opportunity for congressional Republicans to get off the bus. Then we would find out which Republicans are standing on principle, and which are simply looking for a way to posture against taxes and spending without accepting the consequences of an expiration of tax cuts, UI benefits, and other goodies extended in this bill.

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