House Speaker John Boehner dismissed the Tea Party as irrelevant in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer yesterday, while at the same time sending out contradictory messages on taxes.
Two days after the presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were defeated in the election, Boehner stated incorrectly that there is no “Tea Party caucus to speak of in the House.” He then appeared to say Republicans now take the movement for granted, adding, “all of us who were elected in 2010 were supported by the Tea Party.”
Although the official Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been as active as other officially recognized congressional caucuses such as the Democratic-dominated Congressional Progressive Caucus, it has nonetheless existed since 2010.
The Tea Party Caucus was founded by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), an outspoken conservative who narrowly won reelection Tuesday in a hotly contested race. The caucus website lists 60 House lawmakers, all Republicans, as members. Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are also members of the caucus.
Boehner’s comments are surprising because after initial grumblings about the former Massachusetts governor’s commitment to conservative principles, Tea Party supporters and disgruntled conservative Republicans overwhelmingly united behind Mitt Romney during the past election cycle.
Right now Boehner, Senate leaders, and the newly victorious President Obama are engaged in a high-stakes game of poker over the so-called fiscal cliff.
Current tax rates, enacted during President George W. Bush’s first term, will jump on Dec. 31 if they are not extended, possibly sending the already fragile economy into a tailspin. Hefty defense and domestic spending cuts will also take effect at the end of the year unless Congress and President Obama can agree to a legislative fix. Boehner also wants to establish some kind of framework for moving forward with serious tax and entitlement reform talks in the new year.
There is also the prickly issue of the national debt ceiling. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that if the current $16.394 trillion legal limit on federal borrowing needs to be raised in coming months by another $2.4 trillion, “We’ll raise it,” according to CNSNews.com.
Simmering below the surface is the fact that constitutionalists and limited-government backers in the House Republican conference are also upset that after Mitt Romney lost his race for the presidency Tuesday, Boehner almost immediately began waving the white flag in their view in front of the newly re-energized Democrats.
Boehner told Sawyer that he won’t fight Obamacare. Asked by Sawyer if he intended to pursue full repeal of the unpopular health care law, Boehner said, “the election changes that,” and that “Obamacare is the law of the land.”
Boehner has been less that clear about whether he is open to raising tax rates.
On Wednesday the Speaker said House Republicans were willing to consider “some additional revenues via tax reform.” The successful tax reform compromise of 1986 that President Ronald Reagan reached with a divided Congress could be a model for any tax deal that might be reached, he said. “We’re willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions,” he said.
“We’re willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions,” he said.
“The president has called for a balanced approach to the deficit with a combination of spending cuts and increased revenues, but a balanced approach isn’t balanced if it means higher taxes on small businesses that are the key to getting our economy moving again and keeping it moving,” Boehner said.
“A balanced approach isn’t balanced if it means that we increase the amount of money coming into the coffers of government but we don’t cut spending and address entitlements at the same time. A balanced approach isn’t balanced if it’s done in the old Washington way of raising taxes now and ultimately failing to cut spending in the future. A balanced approach isn’t balanced if it means slashing national defense instead of making the common sense spending cuts that are truly needed.”
But Thursday he told Sawyer that “raising tax rates is unacceptable.”
“Frankly, it couldn’t even pass the House,” Boehner said. “I’m not sure it could pass the Senate.”
Since Election Day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has come out more definitively against tax increases than Boehner has.
Discussions of an impending Republican “civil war” are everywhere in the legacy media as GOP lawmakers, their donors, and grassroots members come to grips with President Obama’s unexpected re-election victory.
Members of the majority party in the House for the incoming Congress typically meet in the weeks following Election Day to unofficially elect the Speaker of the next Congress. House members then ratify that decision when they formally elect a new Speaker at the opening of the new Congress in early January.
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