Ramifications are still being felt over the terrible Fiscal Cliff deal that passed Congress on New Year's Day.
The last issue of this newsletter reported the bill, which passed the Senate 89 to 8 and the House 257 to 167, contained no cuts in spending.
In the House, Republicans voted against it 151 to 85, while Democrats voted for it 172 to 16.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (pictured with President Obama) pushed the bill through the House and was joined by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate.
But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) voted against it.
Strong Republican opposition to the Cliff Deal, and strong Democratic support for it, is reflected in the grassroots as well. A Washington Post—ABC News poll found:
67% of Democratic voters approve of the overall deal; 68% of Republican voters disapprove. Sentiment is particularly strong on the extremes, with 71% of liberal Democrats in favor and 74% of conservative Republicans opposed.
With Boehner and Ryan siding with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democrats, Frank James of National Public Radio (NPR) wondered, "Was Boehner's Fiscal Cliff End Run Past the GOP the New Normal?"
Would Boehner and GOP moderates forge a continuing coalition with Pelosi and the Democrats to pass other legislation, such as an increase in the debt limit, over the opposition of conservatives in the House?
The NPR article stated, "There is plenty of conservative outrage, including accusations Boehner doesn't represent them." Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) said:
Will the next two years of leadership be like the previous two years of leadership? The conservatives in the party really feel like we're losing the spending battle.
We have not cut spending. In fact, the one place we were supposed to cut spending was on the sequester. But that got delayed [because of the deal]. So our question as conservatives is, when are we going to start this battle over spending? We've waited two years now. We're not going to wait much longer.
Writing in Politico, Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan observed, "Conservatives don't trust the Speaker…For his first two years as speaker, Boehner was seen by conservatives as overly accommodating to the President."
Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal interviewed Boehner in his office in the Capitol. He observed, "Throughout our hour long conversation, as is his custom, he takes long drags on one cigarette after another. Mr. Boehner looks battle weary…At one point he grimly says: 'I need this job like I need a hole in the head'."
In trying to justify his role in getting the Cliff Deal enacted into law, Boehner conceded the bill contained "an awful lot of garbage," but "We were already off the cliff," and he feared that a no vote would do "serious damage to the economy."
The last issue of this newsletter quoted an article in ConservativeHQ.com which ridiculed the entire Fiscal Cliff scare tactic, which was compared to the recent "Mayan Apocalypse":
Let's be clear about the Fiscal Cliff: it is only a "cliff" if you want the federal government to keep spending a trillion dollars or more over and above what it takes in taxes… If you don't want a trillion-dollar deficit every year for the foreseeable future, then going over the Fiscal Cliff is the compromise that was agreed to when the debt ceiling was raised last year.
So, for Boehner to say that he feared that, if the Cliff Deal didn't pass, there would be serious damage to the economy, suggests he thinks big government is necessary for a strong economy.
However, there was some encouraging news in the Boehner interview.
The Speaker stated that he has significant Republican support, including from GOP defense hawks, for letting the sequester take effect after the two-month delay. "I got that in my back pocket," he says.
If true, that would be a dramatic turnaround from previous votes in the House, in which the automatic cuts in spending were changed so that defense would be completely spared.
With liberals opposed to any cuts in domestic spending and neocons opposed to any cuts in defense spending, there appeared to be a coalition that was possible to completely stop the sequester. The two-month postponement seemed to be the first step in that process.
But if the neocons have come to realize that both defense and domestic spending must be cut, then the liberals would lack the strength, all by themselves, to pass legislation to prevent the sequester from taking effect.
On the other hand, a careful reading of Boehner's statement suggests he will use that willingness to cut defense as "leverage" to make some other deal with the White House and the Senate Democrats.
But no deal is necessary. All he has to do is just let the sequester go through to cut federal spending.
The interview also alludes to the upcoming fight on the increase in the debt limit. Boehner "hedges" on how hard he will fight President Obama on this. But the article suggests that the Speaker might end up passing "a series of monthly debt-ceiling increases," which would require spending to fit beneath low parameters.
Moore appears to believe that the Speaker has a genuine concern about the national debt:
The driving passion for Mr. Boehner in these fiscal debates is his conviction that trillion-dollar deficits are sapping the country of its energy and prosperity. When I ask him when the impact of this debt will start to be felt, he says: "It's already here today. It's killing our economy."
Conservatives hope he really means it.
The previous What's Happening with Conservatives and the Tea Party: Republicans Completely Surrendered in the Cliff Deal
The previous What's Happening with Seniors Benefits: Social Security Payroll Tax Returns to 6.2%
Previous issues of both newsletters.
Follow Art Kelly on Twitter @ArthurKellyJr