The fiscal cliff was averted, but the work isn't done. (photo by Kevin Burkett/flickr)
By Robert Bradley
As many know, during the Orange Bowl between Florida State and Northern Illinois, the House passed a resolution, which originated in the Senate, that made the Bush tax cuts permanent for all individual income under $400,000, and family income under $450,000.
Taxes will go up on about 2% of the nation’s population, and unemployment benefits were also extended. There are some other facets of the resolution to think about:
-Experience matters: Who knew that two 70 year olds with a combined 68 years of experience holding office in D.C. would be the power brokers to achieve a deal? Vice-President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are the two credited with brokering the resolution which passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and achieved majority support in the House without the addition of any amendments. Noteworthy as to who was not involved in making the final deal were such people as Speaker Boehner, House Minority Leader Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Reid. What does being a credited architect of such a deal do for Biden’s thoughts about running for the Democratic nod for the presidency in 2016?
-Missing Republican Leadership: The Republican House leaders split their votes on the resolution. Speaker Boehner in an unusual move not only voted, but voted in favor of the resolution early during the roll call. The Republican Budget Committee Chair, who also was the Vice-Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan also voted for the resolution, as did Tom Cole, a key leader on the Appropriations Committee. But those voting against the resolution included the House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, and the House Majority Whip, Kevin McCarthy.
If that was not sufficient to demonstrate a split in Republican leadership, Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, were two of eight Senators to vote against the resolution and break ranks with McConnell. And Governor Chris Christie leveled scathing comments toward Speaker Boehner for not holding a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief. Similar types of comments were made by House Republicans representing the States most impacted by Sandy. Reacting to the comments Speaker Boehner did schedule a vote for Friday on $9 billion for relief, and pledged that the first bill to be considered by the new Congress will be for $51 billion for further relief.
Also, the not-too-long ago symbolic head of the party, Mitt Romney, was notably silent during all the negotiations on avoiding the fiscal cliff. And a projected front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination, Jeb Bush, also seemed to have nothing to say about the ongoing talks.
-Not a small bill: While commentators focused almost exclusively on the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the resolution that was voted on was 153 pages long. It contained more than 24,000 words. Topics in the resolution ranged from an excise tax on imported rum from Puerto Rico to dealing with the presidential power to reduce the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Given the length of the bill, the complexity of many of its provisions, and the incredible time crunch to conduct a vote, one wonders how many Representatives and Senators fully read and comprehended all the parts of the resolution. This is a significant drawback of brinkmanship style legislating.
So apparently the nation has not plunged down the fiscal cliff. But no deal has been struck on the rapidly approaching debt limit, and the resolution delayed for two months the onset of the automatic spending cuts for the federal government. So for those who loved the debacle played out for the last few days in Congress, then stay tuned because it is likely to reoccur quite soon. To the newly elected members of the 113th Congress best wishes for a productive legislative cycle.
Bob Bradley is solely responsible for the opinions expressed above. These opinions do not necessarily reflect those of WJBC, Radio Bloomington or Cumulus Media staff or management.
Bradley was a full-time professor in the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University where he has been since 1982. He has received several recognitions including: Carnegie Scholar for Civic Engagement, Constitution Trail Friend of the Year, and Faculty Star distinction by ISU Athletics. He dearly loves his wife, Reenie, of more than 25 years, and his daughter, Erin. He is an avid reader, devout sports enthusiast, gardener, golfer, and bird watcher.