Saturday, December 31, 2011

Payroll Tax Cut Fight: Is This the Last Straw?

Courtesy of Alex Wong/Getty Images North America
The Republican Freshmen Class of 2010 has ended the year on a very familiar note. This time, it has has effectively pushed compromise for payroll tax cuts to the legislative brink, while over the past 12 months, the group has held its breath, closed its eyes, and stamped its feet in the midst of some very crucial deals. In the end, the actions of this GOP minority, left House Speaker John Boehner, no other choice, but to pull the "grown-up" card.

Last Friday, GOP House members conceded to a two-month extension of payroll tax cuts for American workers;  a year-long version of the agreement has been at the hub of President Obama's recent public push to spread his message about protecting middle-class and working-class families. If Congress failed to extend the tax holiday by December 31, many people would see almost $1,000 in taxes stripped from their paychecks in 2012. This was, indeed, a bargain that even the party of "No" couldn't turn down - though many tea party members, adamant about the lack of uncertainty it brought to businesses, fought the temporary "fix-it" measure to the bitter end.

While its resistance, essentially, crumbled under pressure from both constituents, as well as Senate Republicans, the Grand Old Party will most likely pay a heavy political price at the polls next November, due to its legacy of staunch obstructionism.

Interestingly enough, the one thing that Republicans do agree upon - that Barack Obama is a one-term President - makes for a bitter taste of irony. The chances that a Republican wins the Oval Office next year are slim, mainly because the fringe elements of its party are at odds with the Establishment.  Republicans' disunity is compounded by the lack of agreeance upon any one particular presidential candidate and a singular, cohesive message, while the increasing splinters in its political ideology, give perfect credence to the Biblical proverb, "A house divided against itself will fall."

Besides the obvious party infighting, Freshmen Tea Party members are seething mad. In 2010, these newly-appointed lawmakers, were ushered in on a conservative wave of change. Their principles were clear, direct, and unequivocal: smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and lower taxes. The GOP had a message that seemed to resonate with many Americans. It even came up with the Republican Pledge to America, in September of that same year, where it vowed to "create jobs" and "stop out of control spending." This class was different; those delegates chosen to represent their districts were every-day citizens (many of whom had never held a public office) who didn't care if they were reelected within the next congressional term. This class was on a mission: it was sent to Washington to convey the message of the people, by the people, and for the people.

These days, the right-wing element of the party feels conservative efforts in Congress have fallen short of the message that helped them win back the House of Representatives. "We have not cut spending....we didn't pass the balanced budget amendment.  These are things that nearly all of the Republicans ran on last fall and we have yet to deliver on them and I think I am frustrated but I think more importantly most Americans are frustrated," says Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp.

It wasn't long after the GOP's historic House take-over, that the band of untested Tea Party Representatives began to butt heads with their Republican leader, John Boehner, over issues that, on some occasions, nearly brought the Government to a halt. For these legislators, instances of unpalatable debt ceiling compromises and bereft balanced-budget amendments have left tensions running high, making the group almost impossible to govern. CNN's Senior Congressional Correspondent, Dana Bash, commented on the challenge the House Speaker has faced over the last year, "It's been a recurring pickle for Boehner, a political pragmatist trying to please a caucus of new lawmakers who don't care about political consequences."

This recent congressional brawl seemed to do nothing but conjure up old feelings of disillusionment and mistrust between the Speaker and rank-and-file members. With a tax cut extension just days from expiration, Boehner opted not to provide his GOP cohorts with the opportunity to comment on the agreement he made with Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell; Boehner simply went over their heads. To some, it was a move that closely resembled a "backroom deal", a practice Republicans campaigned against in 2010. To others, it left questions about Boehner's allegiance to his own party. "Many House GOP freshmen who were against the short-term tax cut extension feel sold out by Boehner, who announced he was relenting to the Democrats on a conference call with House Republicans, without allowing questions or criticism," says Bash.

Once all was said and done, Democrats (in conjunction with the American people) were the ultimate winners in the debate: a possible foreshadowing of events to come. And while the economy gradually takes a turn for the better, unemployment slows, and the housing market sees a slight growth in numbers, signs of a financial "recovery" and the growing rift within the Republican party, could possibly mean one thing: a second-term for Barack Obama.

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