Left Furious with Obama Over Tax Cuts: Trouble Ahead?

Congressional Democrats are talking about blocking the tax cut bill--why? And what would this get them?

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As the Wire mentioned earlier, Congressional Democrats are near revolt over President Obama's deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling the plan merely a "framework," and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won't commit to supporting it. Sen. Mary Landrieu called the deal "almost morally corrupt."

So far, there are 30 senators opposed to the bill, 12 supporting, and 18 in the middle. But if the Democrats do block the legislation, Republicans will simply pass it when they take over in January--"perhaps after extracting further concessions from the White House," The New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report.

Liberals are furious over the deal, but in a press conference discussing the compromise, instead of trying to win them over, Obama took at shot at them. Obama told Democrats he couldn't let the middle class tax cuts lapse for the sake of defending "core principles" of increasing the tax burden on the wealthiest, and compared it to the debate over the public option in the health care bill. Lawmakers shouldn't prefer to "have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people," Obama said. Will this tough-talking tactic win over his party? Here's the rundown on just how angry liberals are, why, and how much trouble they're likely to make (some think there's a chance the Democratic infighting might actually help Obama).

  • Liberal Activists Take Down White House Phone Lines, Jennifer Bendery reports at Roll Call. The activists, organized by the Agenda Project, are "gearing up for another onslaught of calls to Senate Democratic leaders in an eleventh-hour push to kill the deal." The "group, which boasts 10,000 supporters, has plans to push back every step of the way" against the deal.
  • Obama Might as Well Switch Parties, Michael Collins writes at The Agonist. "When Mary Landrieu opposes your strategy on tax cuts for the rich, you know you've gone too far. But Obama is just doing his job, the one he signed up for--an elegant, charming functionary for the ruling class who could fool people just long enough to allow the Bush bailout looting to continue in full force."
  • Obama Tries to Persuade Dems by Calling Them Dumb  "President Obama rallies the base in two ways: by lifting them up, and lecturing them," Slate's John Dickerson writes. "Appearing exasperated at times, Obama tried to explain (again) why he had to make the deal on tax cuts with Republicans. It was a public event, but it felt like a closed-circuit address to the Democratic caucus. When he repeated his reasoning, you could occasionally hear his implied salutation: 'You numbskulls.'" Dickerson says. "Liberals want president Obama to fight, and he is--against them. He doesn't get why they don't see the political reality of the situation: Taxes will go up for everyone if he doesn't make this deal. The economy will buckle. Families will suffer." But, says Dickerson, "it is not often the case that you can persuade people to change their opinion by hinting that they're not very bright."
  • Why Liberals Feel Snubbed  Looking at the numbers, Democrats got more billions more dollars for the folks they care about than the Republicans got for their base. So why are progressives so mad? "My conversations with various progressives over the past 24 hours," Ezra Klein writes for The Washington Post, "have convinced me that the problem is less the specifics of the deal, than the way in which it was reached. Put simply, Obama and the Democrats didn't fight for them," he explains.
There were no veto threats or serious effort to take the case to the public. Instead, the White House disappeared into a closed room with the Republicans and cut a deal that they'd made no effort to sell to progressives. ... The White House walked out of the negotiations with more stimulus than anyone had seen coming. But they did it in a way that made their staunchest allies feel left behind, and in many cases, utterly betrayed.
  • Democrats in Denial, But Obama Can't Be, Ralph Reed observes at The National Review. "The real question is, will enough Democrats swallow the pill and vote for the compromise that even Obama has only reluctantly and half-heartedly embraced? To date they have been in denial," by reelecting Nancy Pelosi and blaming their losses on shadowy outside donors, Reed writes.
This is the stuff of fantasy. Obama does not have the luxury of living in the Hill Democrats' parallel universe. The Iowa caucuses are 13 months away. The reelection campaign looms. That is why if the Democrats vote 'no' and take down this compromise, an even better deal for the GOP will pass in January in a Republican-run House. This fight is over.
  • Best Case Scenario: This Gets Reaganesque  Joe Gandelman notes at The Moderate Voice "progressive Democrats' attitude that Obama doesn't deserve re-election because he wouldn't dig in his heels and fight on this issue." He thinks "Obama may eventually benefit" from this, as it will "be particularly pleasing to many centrists and independents who think both sides must work together ... Just as the GOP's conservative wing wasn't happy with Ronald Reagan, the Democrat's liberal wing is increasingly unhappy with Barack Obama. Will Obama eventually enjoy the same result as Reagan--or will he wind up a one term President who goes down in history as someone who could run a good campaign but wasn't nimble enough politically?"
  • Or, Similarly, This Might Be Obama's 'Sister Souljah Moment,' Outside the Beltway's James Joyner writes. "During his successful 1992 run for the presidency, Bill Clinton famously denounced the rapper Sister Souljah at a Rainbow Coalition address." Clinton's base felt betrayed, but "the incident bolstered his 'family values' credentials with centrist voters and, ultimately, the blacks had nowhere else to go. ... While less dramatic, I’m wondering if President Obama's press conference yesterday, bitterly railing against Democrats in the Congress for being 'purist' and 'sanctimonious' while he’s working hard to 'get health care for all Americans' and other 'victories for the American people,' isn’t his equivalent." Sure congressional Dems are mad. "But, frankly, who cares what they think?  Certainly not Obama, who wants to get credit for compromise and really didn't want to be defending raising taxes during a recession in the next campaign."
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