People are wondering about the Fiscal Cliff deal. If Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid can’t agree on anything, Reid will propose a “little budget deal.” This will consist of only tax cuts for incomes under $250,000 and an extension of unemployment benefits. If this happens, the proposal would probably win majorities in both houses of Congress. The problem is that they probably won’t get to vote. There are two questions: will McConnell filibuster in the Senate? Will Boehner allow a vote in the House?
I think the answer to the second question is easy. Boehner will not allow any vote until he is re-elected Speaker of the House. Even after that, I’m not sure. But I suspect there will be so much pressure from the one true Republican consistency (the super rich), that eventually he will cave.
The first question is more interesting. Given that Boehner is not going to allow a vote tomorrow, why should McConnell care if he allows a vote in the Senate? This is a real test to see just how revolutionary the Republicans have become. The strategy is very clear here. The Republicans lose nothing by allowing a vote. But they lose something very big if they don’t allow a vote.
By filibustering now, they will drive home to any wavering Democrats that the Republican Party cannot be counted on to allow the government to run. That vote is just a couple of days away. That also means that if there is no filibuster, wavering Democrats will possibly think that that Republicans aren’t that bad after all. See: they allowed a vote on the Fiscal Cliff deal!
Now, let’s be clear: the Democrats should not fall for this move. Allowing a vote on this deal will not mean that Republicans will be reasonable from here on. There is no question: they will not be reasonable. But if McConnell is not willing to gain a huge advantage without any cost, then it means that the Republican Party is even more committed to its revolutionary agenda than I had feared.
This is a defining moment.