More political, budget fights loom

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Opponents to the last-minute federal fiscal cliff deal see the same fights moving into the next Congress.
“I think it’s indicative of how things will play out over the next few months and the next four years,” said Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo.
Nunnelee and his House colleagues lost a 257-167 vote to pass a Senate measure averting the so-called “cliff.”
President Obama quickly signed the measure, the 112th Congress’ final major act.
The bill indefinitely extends marginal tax rates on annual family income up to $450,000, lifts the top capital gains and dividends rates to 20 percent, extends unemployment insurance benefits and includes a host of other tax provisions.
It also delays automatic spending cuts for two months, setting up another fiscal showdown over replacing those cuts, raising the debt ceiling and funding the federal government.
Soon after, Nunnelee said he could not “support a deal that adds to our spending-driven debt crisis.”
It’s the new, looming showdowns that give longtime politics watcher Dr. Marty Wiseman heartburn.
“We’ve created our own misery,” said the director of the Stennis Center for Government at Mississippi State University, declaring “the cliff” was unnecessarily “manufactured” by the Congress to poorly address earlier fiscal decisions.
He also lamented the ultra-partisanship in Washington, which makes common ground so difficult to find.
“Just look at the vote, something like 88 percent of Southern Republicans said no,” Wiseman noted, speculating that they fear more conservative primary opponents from such camps as the Tea Party, despite its loss of steam nationally.
Wiseman isn’t the only analyst predicting right-wing action from the fiscal cliff deal.
“Look for the GOP’s right wing to make a major issue” out of the deal, says Southern Political Report out of Atlanta, Ga.
“Although it prevented the Bush tax cuts from expiring on most taxpayers, it let them expire on high-earners and did little to cut spending,” SPR wrote Wednesday. “GOPers who supported it could well find themselves facing tough opposition within their own party.”
Washington publication The Hill hailed the Senate’s new-found leverage by passing its own bill, “forcing the House to accept it or risk the wrath of taxpayers and the markets.”
Despite a near-revolt in the House, Wiseman said, its Republicans realized they had few options but to bring the bill up for a vote.
In the end, Nunnelee and fellow Mississippi GOP Reps. Gregg Harper and Steven Palazzo voted with 164 others against the bill but were outnumbered by 85 Republicans and 172 Democrats, including the state’s lone Democrat, Rep. Bennie Thompson.
Both Mississippi GOP senators – Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker – voted for the Senate bill. The next fight will be over government-wide budget cuts and the debt-limit – all coming due in March.
President Obama has already warned Republicans, though, that he will not tolerate another extended debate over the debt ceiling.
Wicker said Wednesday that more bipartisan deals should be sought to reduce the federal deficit and address debt.
“A default on federal obligations would be irresponsible and would send interest rates skyrocketing, erasing any possibility of deficit reduction,” the Tupelo Republican said. “In addition, it would be irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without enacting meaningful spending cuts.”
Nunnelee said Wednesday he expects the same divisiveness and footdragging by the Senate.
Conservative RedState blogger Erick Erickson on Tuesday called some pro-compromise GOP senators, writing they should be “ashamed” of their votes for the bill, which was negotiated by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Erickson added that any member of Congress who believes they have better leverage over Obama in the upcoming debt-ceiling debate “is fooling themselves to avoid having to realize what a fool they are.”
“That’s the real donneybrook,” Wiseman said.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com