In the fiscal cliff negotiations, President Obama wants to renew the Bush tax cuts for everyone except those who make $250,000. House Speaker Boehner, in what he is calling his “plan B,” is saying that Republicans would be willing to let taxes go up for people making $1 million and more. (He may be hoping to split the difference with a proposal once made by former House Speaker Pelosi to put the cut-off at $400,000.)
Interestingly, Grover Norquist at Americans for Tax Reform, which has been collecting pledges from Republican lawmakers that they would never vote for new taxes, is saying that a vote for plan B would not violate the pledge, presumably because the vote would be to renew the tax cuts and that letting some tax cuts expire is not the same as actively voting to raise taxes. (But wouldn’t that logic apply to the $250,000 level also?) Here is the ATR statement:
“Republicans supporting this bill are this week affirming to their constituents in writing that this bill — the sole purpose of which is to prevent tax increases — is consistent with the pledge they made to them. In ATR’s analysis, it is extremely difficult — if not impossible — to fault these Republicans’ assertion,” reads the statement posted on ATR’s website Wednesday morning.
“In particular, in this Congress the House has already voted twice to prevent any tax increases on any American,” the statement continues. “When viewed with this in mind, and considering this tax bill contains no tax increases of any kind — in fact, it permanently prevents them — matters become more clear. Having finally seen actual legislation in writing, ATR is now able to make its determination about a legislative proposal related to the fiscal cliff. ATR will not consider a vote for this measure a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”
Nevertheless, other conservative groups are rejecting Plan B, and President Obama and congressional Democrats are still holding firm for the $250,000 cut-off.
Would those numbers matter to you in your support for a fiscal cliff bill? Does the new Norquist logic make sense, or is it mere casuistry to give lawmakers a cover to break their promises? Is letting some Americans’ taxes go up preferable to making all Americans’ taxes go up, which is what would happen on January 1 if no legislation gets passed?
UPDATE: Boehner put his plan before Congress, but it was shot down, as even Republicans failed to support it.