400 Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
- Toll Free 1.888.564.6273
- Local 202.783.3870
While Republican leaders in the Congress are celebrating the tax deal forged with the White House as a victory, some of the party’s top presidential contenders, keen to appeal to the ultra-conservative Republican base, have attacked the agreement.
The split pits established lawmakers such as Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell against Tea Party favourites like Sarah Palin, who tweeted that President Barack Obama was “so very, very wrong on the economy” after the deal was announced.
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is expected to make a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, lamented this week that the deal only temporarily cut taxes, provided little certainty to business and broke the Republican pledge to cut spending.
Even as Democrats continue to wring their hands over the tax deal, which defies a campaign promise by Mr Obama by extending Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, many conservative Republicans complain that the deal violates promises party leaders made before November’s congressional elections. Their biggest gripe is that Democrats have sneakily created a second stimulus package with more than $50bn in unemployment benefit extensions that are not offset by spending cuts. Some also see the agreement as reviving the so-called “death tax”, an inheritance tax that – to the outrage of many Democrats – was slashed for the richest American families in Mr Obama’s deal. The activists want to see the tax eliminated.
The fissure raises questions about how Republican lawmakers will navigate future budget fights, which will require them to make concessions to the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House while not ignoring an active party base that demands policies reflecting pure conservative ideology.
An expected vote early next year to raise the federal debt ceiling and other spending measures could be the first big test of how far future House Speaker John Boehner and Mr McConnell are willing to go to appease elements of their party that want to see deep budget cuts.
Tea Party-backed lawmakers, such as Senator Jim DeMint, have become more influential since November’s election. But the tax negotiation showed the party leaders were still not ready to take a hardline stance against a compromise with Democrats – as Mr DeMint suggested – and risk being blamed for an increase in taxes next year. Mr DeMint wanted to hold off on a deal until Republicans were in control of the House next year.
For now, there are relatively few defections in the Republican camp, with not more than 30 Republicans in the House expected to vote against the deal.
One, Mike Pence, another possible presidential nominee, said on Wednesday: “Despite the fact that last November the American people did not vote for more deficits, more stimulus or more uncertainty in the tax code, that’s just what this lame duck Congress is about to give them.”
That stance will appeal to enraged Tea Party activists on the right.
“The idea that this massive tax and spend bill has not yet even been written but may be voted on by the Senate . . . is appalling, and has rightfully drawn the anger of Tea Party activists, an anger that will not be diminished,” said a blog posting by the Tea Party Patriots group.
RedState.com, another conservative blog, blasted the inclusion of – and Republican support for – ethanol subsidies in the tax bill. “If Republicans lack the will to strike out at the heart of the dependency and welfare state after a stunning electoral victory, then when will they?” it said.
Others activists, including Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, accept the established Republican stance that the deal was a huge victory for Republicans in a lame duck session where Democrats still technically held the majority of votes.
“All these other issues about the deficit – that is what the incoming congress has been elected to do. Is this stimulus? I don’t look at it as stimulus. We are dodging a huge, huge bullet in taxes,” said Adam Brandon, spokesman for FreedomWorks.
“This is not the place to tactically manoeuvre. I think we – the small government conservatives – rolled the President. Let’s take our victory”.