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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

So Split the Difference(s)

Since the House ain’t having it, the deal is going to have to be renegotiated in part, unless of course, the my-way-or-the-highway caucus of the GOP prevails. In that event, the tax fight in the next congress will make the health care battle look like patty-cake.
For the sake of argument, let’s be optimistic. Let’s assume that there are some grown-ups hiding in the GOP shadows who get it that they won’t look like wimps if they compromise a little. Maybe Scott Brown or Richard Lugar or some other Republicans in the Senate are thinking “Hmmmm, maybe it’s time for a little adult supervision…Maybe voters are ready for different leadership from our side. Darth Boehner is already tripping. Mitch thinks he’s Patton. I could look pretty good as the lead dog voice-of-reason Republican for a bipartisan solution.”
I know it sounds crazy, because we haven’t seen any Republicans demonstrate a sincere bipartisan spirit for many, many months, if not years. There are no “red dogs” or anything resembling the “gypsy moths” of earlier decades. Plenty of Dems have no problem breaking party ranks, but it’s hard to name even one prominent Republican who has shown a willingness to do so on major votes.
Republican leaders are proud of the party discipline they have demonstrated in 2010. But they may be approaching the point where their strength is poised to become a weakness and look more like indefensible rigidity. All polls indicate a majority/plurality of voters oppose tax cuts for the rich. The GOP could reap most of the backlash if congress bogs down in another prolonged, acerbic conflict. Some Republicans have to be thinking that they could look a lot better by giving a little here and there to make the deal palatable to enough Democrats. A sure win-win outcome is a lot better than gambling on a we-win-they-lose scenario, especially when public opinion data favors the opposition.
If some Republicans rise to this challenge, it’s likely that enough Dems will be open to tweaking the numbers a little here and there. Just for openers, let’s suggest having the Bush cuts expire for those earning over $500K, and cranking up the estate tax rate to 40 percent, kicking in at $3 mill. (If no deal is negotiated before the new year, the estate tax rate is scheduled to increase to 55% for over $1mill, and the Republicans emphatically don’t want that. We do have that leverage.) The Republicans would undoubtedly respond with a counter-offer.
Whatever the magic figures may be, it’s time to stop playing chicken and start negotiating in good faith until we find the numbers that both houses of congress can live with.

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