Will he cave?
House Speaker John Boehner is fighting a war on two fronts — against President Obama and the Democrats on one and against conservatives on the other.
Democrats, backed by their media friends, are saying tax the rich or no deal. Conservatives are saying hold the line on no new taxes and insist upon major spending reductions.
The leaders of 45 conservative organizations warned Boehner and Republicans that any caving in to Democrats would be a “disaster for conservative principles” costing jobs and increasing the debt. Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica says that if he sees a “Republican signing off on a tax increase . . . he loses his or her conservative credentials.”
Boehner’s response to Obama’s plan has been criticized by conservative icon Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who is leaving the Senate for the Heritage Foundation which termed it “utterly unacceptable.”
It doesn’t help the speaker that he purged four tea party followers from the House Committees, which one called a “vindictive move.”
Obama and the Democrats are holding firm, insisting that there can be no compromise on raising taxes on high-income earners.
The problem is that some Republicans may be willing to hedge and compromise on taxes in order to get a commitment to cut spending and deal with the deficit later to avoid being blamed for going over the “fiscal cliff” — steep tax increases and heavy automatic spending cuts due to take effect in January.
Democrats are well aware that Republicans all too often take a knife to a political gunfight: “Be reasonable, come to your senses, go along with us on this and we will work with you later.”
The usual result of this divide-and-conquer tactic is that Republicans usually get double-crossed and lose the battle in the court of public opinion.
Many conservatives believe that Republicans care more about being liked by the media and being called “reasonable” by their Democratic opponents than offending their crucial conservative base which gave them control of the House in 2010 and again this year.
Will Boehner and his colleagues stick to “conservative principles” and not compromise on taxes? If the past is any indication, the odds are not good.
One example comes to mind.
In addition to opposing tax increases, there can be no greater test of commitment to conservative principles than support for the right to life of the unborn. One would think that for conservatives there is no room for compromise on abortion, especially if based on the race or gender of a fetus.
One of the most notorious instances of Republican cratering occurred earlier this year when House Republicans had the opportunity to ban abortions based on the race or gender of a fetus in the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act” (“PRENDA”) sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks, R-Ariz.
It was originally entitled “The Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, named after women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony and former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglas.
In order to appease Democrats and abortion advocates, House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee caved and agreed to delete the Anthony-Douglas reference. As if that were not enough, Republican leaders caved again and threw Franks and pro-lifers under the bus by removing the race-based components, leaving only the gender-based ban. The bill still failed.
Members of the Black pro-life movement felt betrayed that their Republican allies had joined forces with pro-choice Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus to gut the bill.
Given this cave on a basic tenet of conservatism, why should Democrats and conservatives think that Republicans will stand their ground in the fiscal cliff negotiations?
Once again, Republicans don’t seem know how to frame an effective message, nor have effective messengers. They have allowed Democrats to make the debate whether “the rich should pay their fair share.” It should have been “do you want your small business employer to pay more taxes if it means you lose your job?”
Republicans need to follow the advice of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and point out how Obama’s tax hikes will devastate American workers and have a negative impact on job creation and their own small business employers. As he told Newsmax, “Over half of the private-sector workers in America work for the kinds of businesses that the president wants to raise taxes on.”
Their message should be to those who work or seek jobs in restaurants, hair salons, barber and auto repair shops, small law firms and doctors’ offices, neighborhood shops, and other small businesses whose owners Obama would punish. They — and the Republican National Committee--need to show how holding firm on taxes helps them and their families. They haven’t!
Instead of taking revenge on his own conservative conference members, Boehner should have sat down with the conservative leadership and learned how to play the game, frame and deliver the message, and have a united front against Democrats.
Offending Democrats and the media will be temporary. Offending the conservative base which put him and many Republicans in office will have long term results. Assuming a united GOP in the next Congress backed by conservative leaders, it could cost the speaker his job.
Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political and media relations consulting firm in Florida. He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as the Reagan presidential campaigns, including Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation. He was also appointed chairman of the District of Columbia Reagan-Bush Campaign and he chaired the District of Columbia Delegation to the Republican National Convention in Dallas. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more reports from Clarence V. McKee — Click Here Now.
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