President Obama may have scored a big political victory with Congress's passage of his $858 billion tax compromise with Republicans. But in terms of policy and substance, renewing a previous Republican president's tax cuts for two years and extending unemployment benefits is not the stuff of legislative lore.
By design, this bill is only a temporary measure, a case of simply kicking the can down the road to 2012.
Welcome to reality, says Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., a House Ways and Means Committee member. He suggests Obama's deal to keep tax rates from bumping upward for another two years, even for the wealthy, may be "a preface to the book of the [upcoming] 112th Congress."
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Pascrell said he thinks the deal is "an indicator" of how the White House and a new Congress with a Republican-led House will be forced to engage on issues, against pressures from the extremes of both parties. Neither side will have the leeway needed to have its own ideologically pure budget, or "have everything else your own." Pascrell warns: "See how far that gets you."
The tax package, which just passed the House 277-148, certainly does accomplish the urgent aims of avoiding a January 1 rise in income-tax rates for the middle class and keeping unemployment benefits flowing. But to get that, Obama said he had no other choice than accepting a deal fashioned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to set aside his own opposition to renewing the higher-end tax rates enacted under President Bush in 2001 and 2003. A tough decision, says Obama.