Senate Passes Fiscal Cliff Deal: The (Biden) Deal, Its Supporters and its Opponents

Rainer Hachfeld, Neues Deutschland, Germany

It almost looks like normal. The Senate got its deal and the dissenters (few) were three Democrats and five Republicans. An “overwhelming” approval is what the New York Times calls that. Just about anything the Republicans don’t filibuster is a flamin’ triumph! Maybe 2013 is a year of fear for the right?

The Senate, in a pre-dawn vote two hours after the deadline passed to avert automatic tax increases, overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday that would allow tax rates to rise only on affluent Americans while temporarily suspending sweeping, across-the-board spending cuts. ...NYT

It was Joe Biden’s success, one in which Mitch McConnell had a share. It probably strikes an awful lot of us as comical that the person we can thank for this may be Ashley Judd? And, of course, market-driven terror:

Quick passage before the markets reopen Wednesday would likely negate any economic damage from Tuesday’s breach of the so-called “fiscal cliff” and largely spare the nation’s economy from the one-two punch of large tax increases and across-the-board military and domestic spending cuts in the New Year. …NYT

The dissenters included Senator Harkin who thinks the President gave the Republicans more than he should have.

Next hurdle is, of course, the House.

The House Speaker, John A. Boehner, and the Republican House leadership said the House would “honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement.” But, they added, “decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members – and the American people – have been able to review the legislation.”

Even with that cautious assessment, Republican House aides said a vote Tuesday is possible. ...NYT

In the meantime, Harry Reid managed to put the Republicans in a vise with respect to congressional pay raises.

To secure votes, Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, also told Democrats the legislation would cancel a pending congressional pay raise — putting opponents in the politically difficult position of supporting a raise — – and extend an expiring dairy policy that would have seen the price of milk double in some parts of the country. …NYT

Unemployment insurance continues. The 2% cut in payroll taxes does not. And the problems don’t go away. Agreements on spending cuts will have to come before mid-March.

It’s not over until it’s over.

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As NPR points out, those of us whose income doesn’t exceed $250,000 will not be affected by this deal, in terms of taxes. And, of course, government spending is not addressed. Yet. The Times’ editorial board is dismayed by much of the agreement and ends with this: “…A cleareyed look at the deal’s limitations shows how much Republicans have gotten for their intransigence.”

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As the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza points out, it’s Joe Biden’s triumph. Long deserved. “Winners” begin with Biden. Then McConnell. And President Obama. “Losers” include John Boehner (of course), followed by Congress and … President Obama.

Obama’s handling of the fiscal cliff talks felt pitch perfect up until his Monday event with “middle class” citizens. The rally felt too much like a campaign rally — Obama was repeatedly cheered — and the president himself was in a joking mood that didn’t seem to fit the moment. Will it be overshadow the fact that he got a deal? No. But it was an off-key note from the country’s top communicator. ...WaPo

There seems to be some agreement in the media about Obama’s “rally.” It didn’t seem that way to me. Were the media sidelined? That could explain the sour grapes flavor of their complaint and Cillizza’s sour inclusion of Obama in his “loser” as well as his “winner” list.

Oh, and the final loser was/were the people of Washington’s in-group. Their New Year’s Eve was spoiled by the timing of the agreement. Aw gee.

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The Economist apparently updated its assessment of the deal early this morning and has this to say:

… While Republicans will try to use the sequester and debt-ceiling negotiations to secure the spending cuts that this week’s agreement omitted, Mr Obama signaled today he was equally determined that taxes have to rise further, too. “If Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone…they’ve got another thing coming,” he said in a brief public appearance Monday that riled Republicans with its partisan, combative tone. It may be that Mr Obama was mostly trying to reassure his own liberal base that it was the opposition, not him, who caved in this time. But it may also be a sign of the tone likely to prevail in coming months. …Economist

Of course, your friendly pedant here zeroes in on Mr Obama’s language. Got another “thing” coming? That’s “got another think coming.”

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Business and economics commentator John Cassidy is quietly disgusted with what appears to him as a weakened Obama.

As the details of the agreement leaked out on Monday, there was a rare consensus among liberal and centrist economic commentators that it was a pretty putrid one. Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary, called it a “lousy deal.” Marc Goldwein, the policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Budget, favored an excremental adjective. Even Jared Bernstein, a liberal economist who until pretty recently worked for Vice-President Joe Biden, was skeptical. “But jeez,” he wrote on his blog. “This meets the R’s further on their side of the field than one might have expected given the White House’s leverage.”

Perhaps there is something about the deal that these folks are missing. I hope so. For now, coming just two months after Obama was reëlected with a handy majority of the popular vote, it all seems pretty depressing. ...New Yorker

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Over at American Conservative, Ron Dreher seems just as depressed by the deal as Obama supporters.

Cross-posted from Prairie Weather

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Author: PRAIRIE WEATHER

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