Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) hopes to portray his vote in favor of the fiscal cliff deal passed in the early days of 2013 as a tax cut instead of a tax hike. Schock is considering a run for Illinois governor in 2014.
“Aaron Schock voted to cut taxes by $3.92 trillion over 10 years AND PERMANENTLY extended the middle-class tax relief that originated under President Bush in 2001,” Schock’s Chief of Staff Steven Shearer wrote in a Facebook post. “As Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform said, Aaron Schock did not violate his pledge not to raise taxes with the vote on the fiscal cliff.”
Shearer added, “[t]he Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation both officially scored the bill as a $3.9 trillion dollar tax cut.”
Though many Americans’ taxes are higher this year than they were last year, Shearer uses a technicality in the process that led up to the fiscal cliff deal’s passage to claim the Congressman’s vote was a “tax cut” instead of a “tax hike.” When the House voted for the deal the Senate cut early New Year’s morning, the country had technically already gone over the fiscal cliff. That means the Bush tax cuts had expired already and taxes for everyone had gone up before this deal came in hours later to lower the tax rates back down for some Americans, but not all.
“When the Bush tax cuts were passed in 2001, they had an automatic sunset,” Shearer told Breitbart News. “That is when the vote took place that ended the Bush tax cuts.”
“There is no language or provisions in H.R. 8 provisions raising anyone’s taxes,” he added. “Congressman Schock cast no vote to raise anyone’s taxes.”
Shearer continued, “[u]nlike the Bush tax cuts which passed during a Republican presidency and a Republican majority in Congress, the tax cuts in H.R. 8 were made permanent. This gives businesses large and small the certainty they need to make investment decisions.”
Many conservative organizations sharply disagree with Schock’s and Shearer’s rationale for this and consider the deal a tax hike. Barney Keller, the spokesman for the Club for Growth-a powerful conservative group whose support or opposition is often the difference-maker in elections-told Breitbart News that Schock can’t spin his way out of this vote for the fiscal cliff deal.
“In 2012, the American people paid lower taxes, on income, on payroll, and on capital gains and dividends than in 2013,” Keller said. “He can spin it out however he wants, but he still voted for legislation that created higher taxes than last year. The evidence can be found right on the paychecks of his constituents.”
Heritage Action, another grassroots group with swagger in elections, considered the deal a tax increase too. “To be clear, this is a tax increase,” Heritage Action said when urging members of Congress to oppose the deal. “In 2013, the top marginal rate, death tax, and taxes on long-term capital gains and dividends will all be higher than in 2012. Comparing tax rates to hypothetical rates that have hardly any support is nothing more than misleading Washington spin.”
FreedomWorks opposed it as well. The group’s president Matt Kibbe signed a letter to its millions of nationwide members, asking them to push legislators to vote against the deal because the deal contained “tax hikes” and postponed the sequester.
Asked to respond to the conservative criticism of the deal from places like the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and Heritage Action, Shearer told Breitbart News, “no doubt you are aware that [the Club for Growth’s] former leader, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), now a U.S. Senator also voted for the same bill.”
Schock’s chief of staff made the Facebook statement in response to advertisements run by an outside conservative group in Schock’s Peoria-area district. The ads, running on both television and radio, attack Schock for his fiscal cliff deal vote and for his 2011 vote to raise the debt ceiling.
“What is Congressman Aaron Schock doing?” a narrator asks on the ad. “He just voted for the biggest tax increase in half a century. Before that, Schock voted to raise the debt ceiling to more than $16 trillion. Washington has a strange effect on politicians. Just four years in Congress and Aaron Schock has voted for massive tax increases and mountains of debt. It’s, well, shocking.”
Schock’s lawyers have reacted to the ad viscerally, demanding broadcasters in the congressman’s district take it down. Shearer blamed Chicago billionaire Bruce Rauner, considered as another potential GOP gubernatorial candidate in the state, for the ad in that Facebook post, but Rauner denies being involved at all. The group that ran the ad is called “Jobs & Progress Fund,” and it is unclear who funds it.
Schock’s situation brings a lesson for other Republican lawmakers; if they cut deals with President Barack Obama, they will find themselves in trouble with their base.
Georgia Republican Rep. Paul Broun, one of the most conservative members of the House, told Breitbart News late last year he thinks the entire fiscal cliff fight was a ploy on Obama’s part just to get Republicans to break from their principles. If Obama gets enough Republicans to crack, Broun said, his Democrats could take back the House in 2014, giving him full control of Congress for his last two years as President.
National Review‘s D.C. editor Rob Costa made a similar point in a Monday CNBC appearance. “Obama is very effective at pushing the Republican Party into a corner,” Costa said. “Remember, in the fiscal cliff, he gets the Republicans to cave on their pledge. He gets the Republicans to allow some tax rates to go up after the fiscal cliff happens. Now he’s got to be saying to himself, ‘the Republicans did that on the fiscal cliff, let me see if I can get more taxes and revenue as part of the debt ceiling.’ This is a political game he’s playing and he thinks he can really get some concessions out of the GOP.”