House Speaker John Boehner is struggling to keep his party in line on so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations after Republican Rep. Tom Cole broke ranks to urge conservative lawmakers to join him in supporting President Obama’s plan to extend the Bush-era tax rates to Americans making less than $250,000.
“I told Tom earlier at our conference meeting that I disagreed with him,” Boehner said Wednesday, adding that the Oklahoma Republican was a “wonderful friend” and “great supporter.”
“We’re willing to put revenue on the table as long as we are not raising rates,” he added.
On Tuesday, Cole called on his colleagues to take the president’s “deal right now” which would extend the Bush tax rates for 98% of Americans, leaving the battle over rates for the top 2% of wealthiest Americans for another day.
“I think we ought to take the 98% deal right now,” Cole told Politico. “It doesn’t mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don’t.”
This story is an indication of just how spooked Republicans are right now. The elections threw everything they thought they knew out the window and polling shows that they have few friends among voters. From the Republican perspective, Boehner’s probably right — the thing to do would be to try to swing polling around and see if you can get the public behind you. In other words, don’t give up ground until it’s actually taken from you.
And that’s what the GOP would normally do. People like Cole would usually be fine with that. There is, after all, still time. But the lockstep party discipline that’s characterized Republicans since George W. Bush is gone and panic is besetting the forces. They’re ready to desert at the first loud noise.
Democrats only have to keep up the pressure and the GOP will crack like spring ice on a duck pond.