By Ralph Schwartz
When I read on Tuesday night the first news accounts of the House vote that avoided a tumble down the fiscal cliff, I was most surprised by one number: “85.”
How and why did 85 House Republicans vote to raise taxes? After all it was their votes that allowed the tax hikes to happen.
A recent post on Politico explains this easily enough, while noting that the Republicans “broke with … decades of anti-tax orthodoxy” in the party. (I keep thinking of H.W. Bush’s politically fatal utterance, “Read my lips: No new taxes.”)
For many of those 85 Republicans, according to Politico, adhering to the reigning conservative credo was rejected in favor of saving their hides in 2014:
“Being able to tell most of their constituents they shielded them from a big tax hike was more important than being accused by a vocal few of selling out Republican principles,” the Politico story says.
While many Republican representatives in recent years have had to worry more about primary challenges from the tea party right than their Democratic opponent in the general election, the threat for these moderate Republicans in moderate districts was in fact from the left.
The Politico report goes on to describe other reasons why other Republicans joined this historic coalition of 85 that put to rest the Grover Norquist era … or maybe not. In an interesting turn of logic, it turns out Norquist, he of the anti-tax pledge, actually encouraged R’s to vote for the agreement.
Norquist wasn’t looking at this chart of tax increases when making his statement. He was contrasting a vote for the tax hikes with the even higher tax increases brought about if the country takes the fiscal plunge.
It bears watching whether or not Norquist remains relevant in the aftermath of this deal.