In an interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore at the end of last week, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated that in order to get an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, there needs to be some leadership from President Obama. “The missing person, the guy who was AWOL in 2011, is still the president. I think a good starting place in trying to figure out how to go forward is for the president to have an epiphany.” He noted that at the conclusion of negotiations to extend all current tax rates in 2010, “When the president said, ‘I’m for it,’ 40 Senate Democrats voted to extend the Bush tax cuts, which leads me to my point: Without the president, we can’t fix this problem.’”
But it seems that liberal groups and some Senate Democrats are already drawing lines in the sand demanding tax increases in a struggling economy and refusing to do anything about the country’s looming entitlement crisis. The Washington Post reports, “With President Obama seeking a deal to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff,’ liberal groups that campaigned aggressively for his reelection are mobilizing to oppose concessions they fear he could make on Medicare and Social Security. Leaders of the nation’s labor unions and other liberal groups are planning Tuesday to press Obama at the White House to reject the kind of cuts in Medicare and Social Security that he has previously offered to make. On Thursday, left-leaning lawmakers and seniors groups plan to rally on Capitol Hill against any changes to entitlements. . . . Democratic lawmakers have made clear they will oppose any changes to Social Security. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that he is open to a fiscal-cliff deal but that ‘we are not going to mess with Social Security.’”
But Leader McConnell told the WSJ entitlement reform is critical to getting an handle on the looming fiscal crisis: “‘The speaker and I spent an endless amount of time in the first half of 2011 trying to get the president to do what we all know has to be done if we’re going to save the country,’ Mr. McConnell says. ‘Until we adjust the entitlement programs to fit the demographics of today’s America, you can’t fix the problem. You can’t tax your way out of it. You can’t cut health-care providers as a way out of it. But Democrats laughed at those ideas even when we offered a quarter-trillion of higher revenues largely taken from high-income people.’”
The Journal notes, “A newly emboldened President Obama is likely to take his soak-the-rich case straight to the people, I remind the senator. The political pressure to capitulate could become intense. ‘Look, he may think it would be helpful to his presidency to continue to divide and demonize us,’ says Mr. McConnell. ‘But my answer will still be short and firm: No. We won’t agree to any tax increases that will hurt the economy.’”
“But,” the WSJ asked, “don’t Messrs. Obama and Reid think they’ve just been given a mandate to raise those tax rates? ‘Yes, well, we Republicans in the House and Senate think we have a voter mandate not to raise taxes,’” Leader McConnell said.
“And what if the president insists on raising tax rates? Expect a principled stand by the minority leader and his fellow Republicans: ‘He’s got to understand he doesn’t fully control the Senate. He doesn’t control the House at all. In order to accomplish things for the country he will need to work with us.’”