The holiday season is already upon us, but Congressional Republicans are not in a holiday mood. Because of their recalcitrance in the ongoing negotiations surrounding the pending fiscal crisis, they are on the verge of becoming the Grinch that stole America's economic recovery.
President Barack Obama, who won November's presidential election decisively, campaigned for raising tax rates on the wealthy, individuals making more than $200,000, and couples making more than $250,000. One month later, a Washington Post and Pew Research Center poll shows that a majority of Americans still supports that position. The poll also finds that 53 percent of the respondents would blame Republicans in Congress if the two parties fail to reach a budget deal.
But national opinion polls do not influence GOP Congressmen elected in heavily Republican districts. Many of these members are under the firm control of the Tea Party and Grover Norquist, the conservative founder of Americans for Tax Reform. They have both threatened to defeat any Republican members who do not rigorously toe the less "government-less taxes" party line by supporting even more conservative candidates in their primaries.
Republicans have a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives, and conservatives have a stranglehold on these members and their leadership. So tight is their grip on House Speaker John Boehner that if he were to act against their wishes he may lose his Speakership.
Bah Humbug! This is just the right time for Speaker Boehner to compromise and show a majority of Americans that a smoothly and smartly functioning government is possible. A compromise on the "fiscal cliff" would be a wonderful holiday gift for most Americans, businesses and the global economy. Such a compromise would also polish up the tarnished image of the Republican Party, except among Tea-Party members. But even they would benefit from a healthier economy and a more robust recovery.
The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill in July that, if enacted, would extend many of the expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts for middle-income families, while not doing so for wealthy income earners. Speaker Boehner should call this bill up for a House vote and deliver the two-dozen Republican votes needed to pass it. The president has repeatedly said he will sign this bill, which would mean certainty and relief for 98 percent of all Americans.
Subsequently, Republicans can continue to the debate with Democrats over the merits of extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, entitlement reform, budget reductions and changes in the federal tax laws. Each of these are difficult and complicated issues that will take more time to get right. But why make the middle-class suffer any more hardship; why use them as a political chip in an effort to score political points with a vocal minority of Americans?
Republicans and Democrats both reminisce about how President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O'Neill worked together to move America forward. This relationship, built on mutual respect, was historic. Both men risked the wrath of their base supporters, but were not afraid to do so.
Speaker Boehner, you too can make history. And you can make this a happy holiday season for a majority of Americans.