Not all of the criticism of the tax deal is coming from the left. Some on the right are also unhappy. Senator Jim DeMint has said he opposes the deal and will attempt to block it through a filibuster.
Sen. DeMint expressed his objections in an interview with Hugh Hewitt. His main objection was this:
We don’t need a temporary economy, which means we don’t need a temporary tax rate. A permanent extension of our current tax rates would allow businesses to plan five and ten years in advance, and that’s how you build an economy.
But when have businesses ever known what the tax rates will be five and ten years in advance? Tax rates have always been subject to change, but this uncertainty doesn’t mean we’ve been in a “temporary economy” in which growth is stymied by uncertainty.
It’s also not clear that businesses would have known what their tax rates would be in five to ten years even if the current tax rates were made “permanent.” The Bush tax cuts aren’t enshrined in a constitutional amendment. Taxes can always be raised or lowered.
Moreover, DeMint offers no good reason to believe that legislation making the Bush tax cuts permanent would (1) be enacted by Congress even next year (the Dems will still have a majority in the Senate) and (2) avoid a presidential veto. He seems to believe that Democrats are unwilling under any circumstances to allow taxes to increase on the middle class, and thus would ultimately back down. But DeMint seems willing to risk a middle class tax hike in the name of hard bargaining. I think it would be a mistake to assume that congressional Democrats (or even President Obama) are less committed to their ideological principles than DeMint is.
DeMint is also concerned about the impact on the deficit of the increase in spending that the legislation calls for. This is obviously a valid concern. Both the increased spending and the cut in the payroll tax will increase the deficit. Moreover, during the election Republicans committed themselves to addressing the deficit.
But the deficit is a problem that can be addressed next year, whereas the tax issue cried out to be resolved this year because of the expiration date on the Bush cuts. Moreover, the spending in this tax deal is a drop in the bucket. The real test of the Republican commitment to deficit reduction will come in the next Congress.
During his interview with DeMint, Hugh expressed disappointment that the Republican leadership didn’t consult with others in the Republican caucus, particularly new members. He has also suggested that the leadership’s conduct is in tension with the Republican pledge to “read the bills” and, more generally, to act with transparency.
But this does not appear to be a case in which legislation written behind closed doors will be voted on before people can find out what’s in it. The deal itself was negotiated privately, but the fact of the negotiations was known, leaving anyone who cared to weigh in the opportunity (I assume) to express their views to the leadership.
In any event, it looks like there will be substantial pre-vote deliberations now. If meaningful procedual irregularities occur in connection with these deliberations or the vote itself, that will, of course, be objectionable.
JOHN adds: So Bernie Sanders and Jim DeMint apparently will join in filibustering the tax deal. Does that fact tell us something?