Politico‘s Manu Raju and Jake Sherman have a story up today making the case that a fiscal cliff deal is increasing unlikely. And if by “fiscal cliff deal” they mean a “grand bargain” then, yeah, that is not going to happen. It never was. But they also write: “And now aides and senators say the White House’s smaller, fall-back plan floated last week is a non-starter among Republicans in Senate — much less the House.” That doesn’t sound right.
First of all, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promised to allow a vote on whatever the Senate can pass yesterday. “The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act,” Boehner said. Obama will not get anywhere near majority of House Republican votes, and almost certainly none from leadership, but he should get at least 30. Enough to pass a bill through the House if he can get his own party to go along.
But can he get the 60 votes to avoid a filibuster in the Senate? It seems likely. With 51 Democrats in the Senate, plus two Independents who almost always vote with Democrats, Obama only needs 7 Republican Senate votes to force Boehner to take up his plan.
And just this Sunday, Politico reported that Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has gone on record in favor of a bill that would extend tax rates for incomes below $250,000. “If we get down to the end of this year and the only choice we have is to save taxes going up on the middle class, then I would support that,” Isakson said. And Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, committed to a similar policy Friday. “One of the beauties of that bill is it wouldn’t require a vote to raise anybody’s taxes, and I think that is a major advantage,” Cornyn said of a bill that would prevent middle class tax hikes.
That’s two Republican Senate votes Obama’s fall-back plan right there. Now Obama only needs five.
Maine’s Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are gimmees. Now Obama only needs three.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is always easily bought and Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., will be desperate to vote with Obama while running for a special election in a blue state. That is two more votes right there. Now Obama only needs one.
You don’t think retiring-Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., wouldn’t love to stick it to the Tea Party wing of the Republican party?
That’s seven votes. Mission accomplished. Filibuster broken. And Obama has other options too.
The February 2012 vote to extend the payroll tax cut, which was viewed as a huge victory for Obama, passed 60-36, with 12 Republicans votes. In addition to some of the names already mentioned above, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Thad Cochrane, R-Miss., Lindsey Graham, R-N.C., John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., all voted with Democrats. Obama could probably get a couple of these Senators as back ups.
But only if he wants to.
It is also entirely possible that Obama does not want to avoid the fiscal cliff … at least not with a minimal bill that only undoes the middle class tax hike. He wants a big deal. He wants the “grand bargain.” And he may believe his chances of forcing Boehner and McConnell to give him one will increase only after taxes go up first.