The conventional wisdom among South Carolina’s senators is that their main problem isn’t the opposing party, or even Gov. Nikki Haley — it’s the state House of Representatives. A solid deal reached by the Senate could be instantly thwarted by the notoriously cantankerous House, which gives senators yet another hurdle to jump when negotiating compromises.
Inside the beltway, that role is being played by South Carolina senator and tea party leader Jim DeMint, who announced on Tuesday that he would oppose any fiscal cliff compromise proposed by House Speaker John Boehner which involves raising tax revenue.
Here’s how the Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins described Boehner’s offer:
Boehner’s counteroffer, such as it is, is fairly Romney-esque, in that its revenue formula is derived from “$800 billion” through reforms in the tax code, specifically “limiting or closing unspecified tax loopholes, deductions, and lowering tax rates.” Under Boehner’s proposal, the Bush-era tax rates would be extended for all earners.
In other words, Boehner’s proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff is basically a re-hash of the Romney’s economic plan which was roundly rejected by American voters in November. But even that isn’t good enough for DeMint, who called the House GOP’s proposal an “$800 billion tax hike” which would “destroy American jobs.”
“This isn’t rocket science,” commented DeMint. “Everyone knows that when you take money out of the economy, it destroys jobs, and everyone knows that when you give politicians more money, they spend it. This is why Republicans must oppose tax increases and insist on real spending reductions that shrink the size of government and allow Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money.”
DeMint added that “big government is the cause of our debt crisis, not the solution.” But it wasn’t the national debt which caused the 2008 financial meltdown and the ensuing Great Recession — it was the deregulation of the financial industry pushed by small-government conservatives like DeMint.
In any case, the reality is that a fiscal cliff scenario can only be avoided with a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts — period. DeMint himself has acknowledged this in the past, as Linkins pointed out:
“You can’t get a deal with Obama without raising taxes on [top income earners],” [DeMint] said. “We might as well cut a deal. If Republicans want to maintain the defense, we’re going to have to give tax increases to Obama.”
DeMint said he would still oppose revenue increases, even as he acknowledged that it was necessary for a compromise. In other words, South Carolina’s junior senator would rather send the nation’s economy over the fiscal cliff — potentially halting the fledgling economic recovery in its tracks.
Sen. DeMint’s public sandbagging of the opening offer from House Republicans signifies a direct challenge to Speaker Boehner’s tenuous control over the tea party wing of his caucus. With DeMint’s blessing, some House Republicans may feel free to break with Boehner — which could either give the upper hand to Democrats, or result in stalemate.
Shortly after President Obama won reelection, Palmetto Public Record told you about the leadership struggle brewing in the Republican Party between establishment semi-moderates such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, and upstart tea partiers such as DeMint. After all, DeMint has said he’d rather Republicans lose control of Congress than have a GOP majority that’s too moderate. It seems “Senator Tea Party” is actively working to make that happen — all at the economy’s expense.