Tuesday morning, House Republicans held a second no-news conference in which they condemned what they called Obama’s new “tax increase.” They said they were not going to act on the sequester until the Senate acts. The news conference was covered live on MSNBC. Republicans are preempting the president’s speech at a navy shipyard in Newport News, VA later today. The sequester will results in layoffs at that shipyard.
Despite calls from Republican governors and some Republican Congressmen for the House to act, Speaker Boehner again threw cold water on that Tuesday. He said the House “moved the bill twice and we [the House] should not have to act yet a third time until the Democrat Senate gets off its ass.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi quickly pointed out on MSNCB, the two bills Boehner referred to were passed by the last Congress. They are null and void since they never passed the Senate and were not signed by the President. The current House has not passed any bill regarding the sequester. It appears Boehner lost track of the calendar.
Representative Pelosi also reminded Speaker Boehner that under the constitution, all revenue bills must begin in the House. His demand for the Senate to Act first is pure political rhetoric designed to confuse the public and lay the blame on Democrats for Republican inaction. Pelosi urged Boehner and Republican leaders to stop the “drive-by governing” and act.
Despite the latest Republican talking points, the president is not calling for tax increases; he is calling for Congress to close tax loopholes which Republicans advocated during the election. The president suggests this should be part of a deal to fix the sequester along with spending cuts. The president wants the cuts to be sensible and not the across-the-board cuts Congress passed when it adopted the sequester in 2011.
Republicans wanted to close loopholes until Obama agreed
During the 2012 campaign and as recently as January, Congressional Republicans believed that closing tax loopholes was the smartest idea ever conceived. That was the foundation of the Romney/Ryan tax plan. Then, something happened. Barack Obama agreed with them. Now, closing tax loopholes is being blasted by Republicans as “raising taxes.”
A normal person would be ashamed and embarrassed to stand in front of a camera and vociferously attack a program they campaigned for just a few months ago. When Obama agreed with them, he called their bluff. Republicans never wanted to close loopholes; they are the ones who put them in the Tax Code to begin with. Every loophole has a lobbyist and a campaign contribution behind it. Republicans want to protect their billionaire benefactors.
Closing just a few loopholes would reduce deficit
There are a few terrible loopholes that stand out. These include the $4 billion a year taxpayers give to oil companies despite the fact they are booming and their profits have never been higher. A large amount of revenue could also be raised if the carried interest loophole that Mitt Romney uses to avoid taxes was eliminated. Furthermore, closing the loophole on corporate jets and yachts would generate large sums of new revenue.
Closing these three loopholes would not hurt the middle class. They would only slightly increase the amount of taxes that the top 1% pays. Contrary to Republican talking points, closing these loopholes would not kill jobs. Allowing the cuts in the sequester to happen, however, will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The sequester battle once again exposes Republicans as the party of the rich—at any cost.