In the event that talks between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) do not reach their goal of a compromise between the two parties, GOP lawmakers are planning to vote on Republican proposals to replace the tax hikes and automatic spending cuts that due to take effect at year’s end.
The Democrats are accusing the Republicans of playing games with the nation’s future, as the Republicans accuse the Democrats of being unbending in their stance to raise taxes on the rich. While those measures would not be enacted — nor would they draw significant Democratic backing —the votes would give Republicans a chance to draw a sharp contrast with Democrats.
“I believe the White House is willing to go off the cliff, and, frankly, I think that’s where we’re going to go unless they change their viewpoint,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the top Republican on the Finance Committee.
Many Republicans are worried about polls suggesting that a majority of Americans favor higher tax rates for affluent taxpayers and would blame the GOP if nothing is done to prevent some $550 billion in across-the-board tax increases and $109 billion in automatic spending cuts.
Revenue bills must originate in the House
The next step is minimizing political damage, according to Republican senators who have become increasingly vocal in urging the GOP-controlled House to pass and send to the Senate legislation intended to head off the tax increases and spending cuts. Though Republicans have no control over the agenda in the Democratic Senate, revenue bills must originate in the House.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) would extend all current income tax rates and replace the sequester with alternate spending reductions. While party leaders on both sides are hesitant to talk about fallback measures, both parties are eager for voters to know where they stand regardless of results.
Options to a stalemate
The possibility of extending the Bush-era rates for families who earn less than $250,000 and then reopening the debate on taxes and entitlements next year is an option that lawmakers are discussing.
But the nation heads for the debt limit again and the White House has been asking the House Speaker Boehner to provide details of the cuts that Republicans want. The aides also said Republicans took a step back from a middle ground on taxes with their counteroffer recently to lock in the Bush-era tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, saying they were skeptical about a verbal concession since the speaker has yet to detail such a plan on paper.