The fiscal cliff deal that the Senate passed early this morning is ridiculous in too many ways to count. There seem to be no figures from the Congressional Budget Office and only "very preliminary" figures from the Joint Tax Committee about the real spending and revenue implications. The two month delay of the sequester will make actual governance even more difficult (how is the Pentagon supposed to plan for the rest of the year?). The sequester delay is funded by a gimmick with retirement savings tax rules that is a caricature of what has become of Washington legislation and policy making. Working Americans making less than $400,000 will be shocked when they find that, contrary to promises from both parties, their taxes are in fact going up (the payroll tax). And we will face another cliff when we hit the debt ceiling and the sequester again in two months.
The deal is a sad commentary on our politics today.
On the other hand, the deal is substantively better than going over the cliff and having all income and investment taxes go up, and having the defense sequester hit right away. And politically, Republicans are escaping with a better outcome than they might have expected, and President Obama has gotten relatively little at his moment of greatest strength. In particular, this should do it for new tax revenues, at a number lower than Speaker Boehner originally offered—and it should be pretty easy to have the next debate focus on spending and entitlements.
So, enough House Republicans should vote yes to get the bill passed. And then immediately move on. For Republicans and conservatives need to get serious about what, substantively, they want to stand for over the next few years; about what, practically, they think they can accomplish during Obama's second term; and about what, politically, their strategy and tactics are for dealing with President Obama and for laying the groundwork for victories in 2014 and 2016. This is the task for the new year, once we get past this dog's breakfast on New Year's Day.