By Lee Roop
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, says he would have supported Republican House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" on the House floor Thursday night if it had made it to a vote. Instead, Boehner pulled the plan when it became clear it lacked sufficient Republican support to pass against unified Democrat opposition, and Brooks returned home to Huntsville Friday "absolutely" frustrated.
Boehner pulled his proposal to keep taxes from increasing Jan. 1 when, in Brooks' words, "we only had about 80-85 percent" of Republican support, "when we needed 90 percent ... to help us overcome the Democrat opposition to those tax cuts." The Speaker didn't have that support, he said, in part because of news media misinformation and the words Republicans themselves have used in the debate.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people in the public, because of the verbiage that has been used, thinks that we're voting on tax increases instead of tax decreases," Brooks said. "And in that kind of environment, a significant minority of Republicans -- 15 percent or so of our conference -- were unwilling to vote for protecting 99.8 percent of taxpayers from this tax increase. They wanted to protect 100 percent of taxpayers from this tax increase."
Now, Brooks said, "We wait until (Senate Marjority Leader) Harry Reid and (President) Barack Obama make a proposal that can be presented for a vote." Brooks said the president is now in "the catbird seat."
"Keep in mind," Brooks said, "that the House has already passed a bill that addresses sequestration, two of them, and the House has already passed a bill that prevents these tax increases on the American taxpayer."
Brooks said representatives were informed by House leadership "that if the president and Harry Reid make a proposal in writing, in bill form, that we will be called back into session on at least 24 hours notice."
Brooks called the tax increases Washington is trying to prevent from kicking in on Jan. 1 "Barack Obama's tax increases," because the president signed the bill "two years ago when the Democrats who controlled both the House and Senate passed a bill that set up these tax increases for Jan. 1, 2013." That was before he entered Congress, Brooks said.
Brooks said "that is not the way the media generally has described it, because they are carrying the Democrat message." He also conceded that some Republican leaders have discussed the issue "in terms of raising revenue." Instead, Brooks said "what we're trying to do is reduce the amount of new taxes that are going to take effect. If we do nothing, then all of those tax increases go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, and that's why the president is in the catbird seat in terms of the negotiations."
The president spoke to reporters late Friday afternoon and laid out his view of the negotiations so far. "I offered to compromise with Republicans in Congress. I met them halfway on taxes," the president said, "and I met them more than halfway on spending. And in terms of actual dollar amounts, we're not that far apart."
Obama said that "even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us -- every single one of us -- agrees that tax rates shouldn't go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses. Every member of Congress believes that. Every Democrat, every Republican. So there is absolutely no reason -- none -- not to protect these Americans from a tax hike. At the very least, let's agree right now on what we already agree on. Let's get that done."
Obama said he has asked congressional leaders "to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That's an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days. Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers. And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year. It's that simple."