The fiscal-cliff fix: Winners and losers
- Joe Biden — Biden certainly “emerges with enhanced stature from the budget mess,” says The Daily Beast’s Kurtz. He was “called off the bench” on Sunday, then “showed a deft hand — and the experience of growing up in [the Senate] — in quickly hammering out a deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.” If the 70-year-old vice president “decides to run for Obama’s job in 2016, such performances could more than offset his reputation for shooting from the lip.” Of course if Democrats end up hating the deal, this could actually “bite Biden down the line,” says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. But he clearly ranks among the winners for negotiating the deal and persuading Democrats to support it. The vice president is often underestimated by the political press, but “the ‘Biden as major White House asset’ storyline writes itself” now.
- The rich and elderly — Obama’s decision to raise the threshold for higher taxes from $250,000 to $450,000 makes for “a big tax cut for all kinds of rich people, not just those with adjusted gross incomes between the two figures,” says Matthew Yglesias at Slate. Because our tax rates are marginal, meaning that only income above $450,000 is taxed at the higher rate, “if you make $600,000 or even $1 million a year you still have a very large share of your income that’s taxed at a lower rate thanks to this deal.” The deal also didn’t have any of the expected cuts to Social Security and other federal retirement security programs, so at least for now, “old people are the winners,” too.
- John Boehner — “The fiscal cliff talks were cast as a moment for [John] Boehner to cement his legacy as speaker,” negotiating a grand bargain that would “set the country on the right financial course through the Republican-controlled House,” says Cillizza at The Washington Post. “The exact opposite happened.” The Ohio Republican dropped negotiations with Obama to pass his own “Plan B” — raising taxes on only people earning $1 million a year — but that plan failed to even get a vote, raising questions about “how much — if any — control he had over his fellow House Republicans.” That idea was reinforced when Boehner couldn’t get more than half of his caucus, or even his top lieutenants, to back the final compromise, says Daniel Newhauser at Roll Call. Boehner “now slumps into the 113th Congress with gavel firmly in hand but with scant ability to wield its power.”
- Hurricane Sandy victims — After the messy fight over the fiscal cliff bill, House GOP leaders canceled a scheduled vote on a supplemental spending bill for areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, mostly in New York and New Jersey. The House Appropriations Committee had even teed up a $60 billion package, matching the Sandy relief bill that passed the Senate last week. “Absent a change of heart, the upshot now is that the Senate bill will die with this Congress on Thursday at noon,” says David Rogers at Politico. “I assume there is as tactical consideration here, that the Republican leadership didn’t want to be anywhere near a big spending bill after the fiasco of their handling the tax debate,”says Rep. Rob Andrews (D.N.J.). “I understand the tactics but there is a real human need here that is being ignored.”
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