For now, we can call both Barack Obama and John Boehner fiscal cliff deal winners. PHOTO: AP
A fiscal cliff deal has been reached at last, and for the moment, the American economy can breathe a sigh of relief. Who got what they wanted, who looks good, and which Americans did well in the fiscal cliff deal? Read on:
1. Party Leaders
Many of us have felt for a while that deal-making in Washington is, if not dead, in a prolonged coma. Yet, President Obama, John Boehner, Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell slogged through until they had a fiscal cliff deal. This was while legislators on both sides of the aisle chimed in regularly to say that they didn’t like the fiscal cliff deal.
2. House Democrats
House Democrats did not expect to matter very much over the next two years, because if Republicans are united, they can do whatever they want. However, when it came to the fiscal cliff deal, Republicans were anything but united. 85 voted for the fiscal cliff deal and 151 voted against, meaning that it was the overwhelming Democratic support (172-16) that allowed the fiscal cliff deal to pass.
3. Mitch McConnell
Instead of his normal role of slowing down Democrats, McConnell became the key player late in the game for the Republicans, and his willingness to negotiate allowed for a fiscal cliff deal.
4. Upper-middle class Americans
It was more or less decided that any fiscal cliff deal would raise taxes on income over $1 million, and would not raise taxes on income under $250,000. The final fiscal cliff deal brought that number to $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families. The estate tax went up, but the fiscal cliff deal maintained the $5 million exemption. Basically, if you don’t have a chauffeur to escort you to different parts of your villa, the fiscal cliff deal was pretty good for you.
1. House Republicans
For once, some real infighting amongst the Argentinean ants of politics. The Republican vote on the fiscal cliff deal showed the sort of in-party split that is completely absent from recent memory. That’s a win for the country and democracy, but a Republican House divided really greases the wheels for Obama and the Democrats. Perhaps the fiscal cliff deal is just the beginning.
2. Grover Norquist
Technically the fiscal cliff deal avoided a scheduled tax increase for most Americans and allowed the increase to occur on the richest Americans. Still, there’s no avoiding this truth: taxes went up and Republicans, including many signees of Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, voted for the bill. Furthermore, there might not be much political punishment doled out on Republicans who voted for the fiscal cliff deal. Some of those 85 House Republicans who voted for the fiscal cliff deal may face a tough primary battle, but not until 2014, and they have some political cover here.
3. Eric Cantor…for now
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, along with Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy have always been the unofficial leader of the Tea Party Republicans, who refused to vote for any kind of tax increase. John Boehner is more of a deal-maker, but he always needed the support of Cantor. Now, on the eve of the new Congress, Boehner passed a bill without Cantor or his unofficial constituency. Still, the fiscal cliff deal set up another round of ugly negotiations over the debt ceiling and, more or less simultaneously, cuts to entitlement programs and defense, where Cantor-led Republican intransigence may return with a vengeance.