Monday, July 04, 2011

Back to the future: Norquist's extortion

October 1, 1995.  Bob Dole, Senate majority leader and presidential candidate, is working to shepherd an omnibus spending bill incorporating the GOP's seven-year deficit reduction plan to passage, around the promised veto of Bill Clinton.  A marquee feature is $245 billion tax cuts, scaled down from the Contract with America's call for $354 billion but representing a consensus GOP figure since legislation took shape in the House and Senate in the spring of the year.  After months of Democratic attacks, however,a Washington Post poll finds  that 69 percent of respondents deemed "leaving Medicare services basically as they are now" to be more important that cutting taxes. Dole wavers:
"Will {the tax cut} be $245 billion? I'm not certain at this point," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "We have to get into the Finance Committee and see what we can achieve"(Washington Post, 10/3/95).

Heresy!  Up rears an enforcer all too familiar to those following the current budget battles in Washington:

Dole's equivocating on the tax issue also has infuriated conservative GOP strategists. Americans for Tax Reform President Grover G. Norquist, the author of the no-new-taxes pledge Dole signed reluctantly this year, said Dole's failure to deliver the entire $245 billion tax cut would destroy his credibility as a presidential candidate among conservatives -- particularly if Dole allies such as Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) were the key defectors.

"If Bob Dole double-crosses the American people on his promise to deliver the $245 billion tax cut, that is going to explode in the campaign," Norquist declared. "This is Waterloo, this is Gettysburg, this is everything."
 The next day, Dole falls in line:
But yesterday, Dole the Candidate beat a hasty retreat from that retreat -- under a hail of fire from his party's conservative wing.

"As far as I'm concerned, $245 billion is the figure," Dole averred at press conference at the Capitol.
And indeed, the legislation that arrives on Clinton's desk in late October includes the $245b.  Clinton vetoes it; six months of budget impasse, garnished by two government shutdowns, follow, until a budget for the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, 1996 is passed in late April 1996.  Not until August 1997 is a multi-year deficit reduction plan (1998-2002) passed, with $95 billion in tax cuts -- rather like the $105 billion in Clinton's long-range budget proposal (adjusted to $98 billion in a counterproposal to the vetoed GOP budget put forward in December of that year). The cuts reflect Clinton's priorities, providing a $500 per child tax credit and the Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits for college.

Alas for Monica Lewinsky, the wretched campaign Gore ran in 2000, the electoral college aneurysm, the deformed Supreme Court ruling in Bush v. Gore, and GOP fiscal recklessness 2001-2008.

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