“When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”
President Ronald Reagan’s sound advice rang true yesterday. Grassroots activists and conservative groups, led by Heritage Action for America, derailed a plan to raise taxes on some Americans and small businesses.
Lacking votes from his own party, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called off consideration of “Plan B” last night, sending lawmakers home for Christmas instead. When the dust settled, conservatives stuck to their principles: to cut spending without raising taxes.
When they return to work, all eyes will be on President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Their failure to act has left the nation on the brink of the fiscal cliff.
It didn’t have to come to this. Nearly five months ago, on August 1, the House of Representatives voted to prevent a tax hike on all Americans. The measure passed on a 256-to-171 vote, winning the support of 19 Democrats.
Meanwhile, as Obama divided the country with his class-warfare campaign, Reid sat idle.
Heritage’s Patrick Louis Knudsen, the Grover M. Hermann Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs, wrote last month about the Senate’s failure to act:
Although the House passed legislation this year replacing the across-the-board cuts with specific policy changes, the Senate refused to act, forcing any resolution to wait until after this year’s election. Now this large problem joins with other unresolved issues, such as the “doc fix” (extending Medicare physicians’ payment rates) and extended unemployment benefits—and another debt-ceiling increase looms early next year as well.
Now there are just 11 days left before Americans face a massive slate of tax hikes and reckless defense cuts. The fiscal cliff will affect all American taxpayers, with an average increase of more than $4,100 in taxes.
This is unacceptable.
Reid could have brought the House-passed measure to the Senate for an open debate and vote. He could have instructed Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) to produce a budget. Instead, Reid did neither. The Senate has now gone 3 years, 7 months, and 22 days without a budget.
Boehner, who oversaw passage of Republican-drafted budgets in 2011 and 2012, was right to place blame on the Senate for failing to act:
Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt. The Senate must now act.
Heritage Action, our sister organization, has urged lawmakers to remain true to their principles. Earlier this week at a Capitol Hill press conference, Heritage Action chief executive Michael Needham led a group of conservative leaders, including Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), to voice opposition to a tax increase.
In a statement last night, Needham commended the House for acting months ago and urged Obama and Reid to “reject the political gimmicks and demonstrate that same level of seriousness.”
Throughout the fiscal cliff negotiations, Obama has demonstrated a lack of seriousness. Heritage’s Alison Acosta Fraser recounted earlier this week that Obama initially wanted an $800 billion tax increase, only to later double that demand to $1.5 trillion. His plan lacks any substantive spending cuts, insisting on tax hikes first. And to top it off, the more concessions Republicans have made, the more Obama wants to take from the American people.
Enough is enough.
Conservatives stood their ground last night and sent a powerful message. Now it’s time for lawmakers to take the “least repugnant remaining resolution to the fiscal cliff,” as Heritage’s J.D. Foster wrote earlier this week, and pass a temporary measure that extends all tax rates and all spending policy without sequestration cuts through March 31, 2013.
That’s the best possible outcome in this unfortunate situation.