Republicans Bob and Weave, Dodging Fiscal Solutions

Republicans Bob and Weave, Dodging Fiscal Solutions

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Republicans continue to insist on tax cuts for high income earners, including the wealthiest Americans, and even more breaks for small business and others. But they haven't said how they’re going to pay for all of it.

On ABC’s This Week, Christian Amanpour tried valiantly to get Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to say how he’d pay for the additional $700 billion that extending the top-bracket cuts would add to the deficit.

“There are two things you need to do” on the deficit, McConnell said. “Number one, you need to get spending down, and number two, we need to get the economy going….Throw a tax increase in there, and we're going to have this recession go on who knows how long.”

McConnell also mentioned his plan to freeze discretionary spending at this year’s levels. But changes to entitlements will have to wait for President Obama’s deficit commission to report in December. “We'll wait and see what they recommend, but hopefully it'll be something that'd be supported on a bipartisan basis,” he said.

It was much the same on NBC’s Meet the Press for David Gregory and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind. “How do you answer the charge from Democrats, from the president as well, that you don't have a way to pay for extending the tax cuts, and yet you're committed to deficit reduction?” Gregory asked.

“Look, job one needs to be to create jobs,” Pence said, and then called for the House to vote on the cuts before the election.

Pence isn’t likely to get his wish. The Republicans don’t want to defend the details of their newly unveiled Pledge to America, and Democrats don’t want to stage a tax-cut vote that will hurt more endangered members than it helps.

This week both parties will have a final chance to deliver their pre-election talking points in Washington, as Congress plans to pass a stopgap spending bill and then head home to campaign. The Senate will take up the Democrats’ latest jobs bill, which would give companies a two-year payroll tax holiday for workers “insourced” from overseas and eliminate tax breaks for companies that outsource. Republicans say it wouldn’t create jobs, so the bill probably won't meet the required 60-vote threshold to advance. In the House, Democrats and some Republicans are pushing a bill to pressure China over its currency rate. Many big-business groups oppose that effort, though.

Until the election, neither party wants to be pinned down saying much of anything.  On Fox News Sunday, anchor Chris Wallace asked House Minority Leader John Boehner about the pledge’s lack of detail on earmark reform, domestic spending cuts or entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. That led Boehner to make a curious comment: You can’t propose solutions now.

“Chris, this is what happens here in Washington. Now, when you start down that path, you just invite all kinds of problems,” he said. “Let's not get to the potential solutions. Let's make sure Americans understand how big the problem is. Then we can begin to talk about possible solutions, and then work ourselves into those solutions that are doable.”

Wallace asked Boehner whether a Republican-controlled House would banish earmarks once and for all. “It will not be business as usual,” Boehner said. Wallace pressed him but got only the same answer again. (Boehner can’t commit to a permanent earmark ban because plenty of his members still want them.)

Wallace asked GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California about the pledge’s proposal to cut $100 billion from the non-security discretionary spending that Congress controls, which works out to about 20 percent cuts across the board for programs like the FBI, NASA and Head Start.

McCarthy chuckled. “For a guy that served on the Head Start board in my county for 10 years, I know that's not true,” he said. “What I'm saying is discretionary spending.” Actually, congressman, Head Start is discretionary spending.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats, unable to get traction with their argument on extending tax cuts to the middle class but not the wealthy, punted a vote until after the election, leaving House Democrats likely to follow suit.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also appearing on Fox, blamed Republicans for the situation. “As you know, we have some 400 bills pending in the Senate, 75 percent of which have gotten 50 Republican votes or more,” he said. “But they can't move through the Senate, so [a House vote] would be a specious act. But Democrats have absolutely pledged and will make sure that before the end of this year the Republican increase in middle-income taxes will not go into effect.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told CNN that he hopes that after the election the math will change on the tax plan, as well as any number of other bills. He pointed out that the Senate spent more than a month on the small-business bill before two Republicans helped Democrats pass it.

“We know we don't have 60 votes for our tax position,” Durbin said. “We want to basically say after the election when we still face a deadline, by the end of the year we'll take up all of these tax issues. That to me is the only realistic way to address it.”