The federal government did not exactly fall off the "fiscal cliff", but instead extending the edge of it for two more months. The last-minute package, which made the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts permanent for the 99%, also extended unemployment insurance, and thus extended unemployment. The "final" fiscal cliff deal did nothing to cut the deficit, reform entitlements, or stop the spending spree in Washington.
House Speaker John Boehner caved on his principles. He ignored the majority of the majority caucus and brought the Senate compromise to the floor. The bill barely passed, mostly with Democratic support. Boehner was reelected speaker, but a stalwart conservative minority sounded off that the party needs better leadership in the House.
If the Republican Party had one winner in the "fiscal cliff" fallout, it would be Republican minority leaders Mitch McConnell, who took the unprecedented step of reaching out to Vice President and Senate President Joe Biden to broker a compromise. From that gesture and afterwards, McConnell has shed his "one-term President" obstinacy. His skills have not only matured, but he exposed President Obama as the immature faux-leader which he has gotten away with for the past four years.
The "fiscal cliff" deal exposed a slight fissure in the Democratic Party caucus, as well. From Salon.com, three Democrats shared why they voted against the fiscal cliff deal.
Sen. Michael Bennett, Colo., chalked up his opposition to the bill’s not addressing the deficit. “This proposal does not meet that standard and does not put in place a real process to reduce the debt down the road,” he said in a statement.
Colorado politicians still recognize that they represent a swing-state, one which can tilt either way, if the Republican Party can find a populist candidate for the Senate seat or the Presidency who recognizes the economic dangers pressing on Hispanic voters. Bennett entertained New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd with his concerns about the spending crisis in this country, exuding a sensible rationale more profound than his Majority Leader, Harry Reid, who has contented himself with doing nothing and blaming Republicans, who want to do something.
And Sen. Tom Carper, Del., explained that “When push came to shove, we walked away from entitlement and meaningful tax reform, at least for now. Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Obama, is fond of saying, ‘Never waste a good crisis.’ I’m afraid that we’ve just wasted a doozie at a time when our President’s bargaining power was at its zenith.”
Carper beat out the creator of the Roth IRA in 2000, and just won election for his third term representing the "First State" Delaware, where the inhabitants choose candidates who marry Blue Dog fiscal conservatism with Progressive social liberalism. One of five states without a sales tax, Delaware wants spending cuts and fiscal prudence, no doubt. The crisis has not gone to waste, though, despite his calm reluctance, but has not turned to the advantage of debt-fighters who will not give until the President outlines real spending cuts and entitlement reform.
The third Democrat to vote against the fiscal cliff, Tom Harkin of Iowa, is hearkening to more personal interests with his "nay" vote:
Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa, said he was angry that the bill raised the threshold for tax cut extensions to $450,000 per household. ”I’m disappointed to say that in my opinion, this legislation that we’re about to vote on falls short,” Harkin said. ”First, it doesn’t address the number-one priority: creating good middle-class jobs now. Unemployment remains way too high. This bill should include direct assistance on job creation measures.” (Salon.com)
Senator Harkin has not declared whether he will run for the US Senate again in 2014. For a state which switched to endorsing the Republican Presidential candidate for the first time in four decades, to a community which recalled State supreme court justices for endorsing gay marriage, Iowa remains more conservative than media pundits care to admit.
Harkin wants the United States to create good jobs. He could start by voting for more spending cuts and less government regulation. He would boost insurance companies in the region by pushing for the defunding and then the phasing out of Obamacare, followed by permitting the purchase of health insurance policies across state lines. Unemployment does remain stubbornly high, that's true. What has the Senator suggested that the US Congress do, besides spending money that our government does not have on entitlements which the country can no longer afford? Harkin's vote against the fiscal cliff may be the first of his many tacks to the right to preserve his seat in the Senate should a centrist Republican challenge him in 2014. A savvy opponent could start by pointing out that Harkin voted for Obamacare, yet at the same time showed careless disdain for the annual deficits and national debt eroding the full faith and credit of the United States federal government.
Whatever course the Iowa Senator charts for himself in the upcoming months, he will be weighing every vote against his political future and the financial future of the United States of America.