Tax-Cut Deal With Obama Riles Some Republicans
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Most Republicans say they are pleased with the deal they cut with President Obama. They like extending the Bush-era tax cuts, but not necessarily the extension of jobless benefits. Still, there are some on the right who are unhappy, and who insist that they had the leverage - the Republicans - to get even more.
NPR's Don Gonyea joins us now to talk about this. Good morning.
DON GONYEA: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Since this deal was announced, of course, we've been hearing lots of complaints from the Democrats that the president caved - as some put it - too soon. Are the Republican complaints of the same nature - except, you know, on the other side, looking at their own leadership?
GONYEA: It's a little bit different. For the Democrats, it seems to be personal -focused on the discontent with the White House and with the president, in particular. Republicans who don't like it are focusing not so much on the leadership who cut this deal, but on the cost of the deal - some $900 billion.
Again, while Republicans were very good at sticking together, though, in the past two years in Congress, we have to remember that we saw a lot of Republicans during the last election, many of them affiliated with the Tea Party, who were happy to take on the party leadership. They did it in primaries, certainly, and they are doing it on this issue. Among the most notable is a familiar name here, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. He is a hero to the Tea Party movement. Give a listen to this, from an interview; he was on the conservative talk radio show "The Hugh Hewitt Program."
(Soundbite of radio show, "The Hugh Hewitt Show")
Senator JIM DEMINT (Republican, South Carolina): It raises taxes, it raises the death tax. I don't think we need to negotiate that aspect of this thing away. I don't think we need to extend unemployment any further without paying for it and without making some modifications, such as turning it into a loan at some point. It encourages people to go back to work. So a lot of problems with it.
GONYEA: Again, he references the death tax there. That's what Republicans call the estate tax. Again, the Republicans think there should just be no estate tax, and that's the kind of thing that has them upset about this.
Now, there has also been a lot of Tea Party criticism of the agreement - that there need to be spending cuts, that the jobless benefits are too costly, that this'll make the deficit worse, though they do not complain so much that the tax cuts also make the deficit worse.
MONTAGNE: Well, do they have the votes to stop the deal?
GONYEA: I right now it doesn't seem so, but it could be an interesting couple of weeks. Nothing, certainly, is set in stone. Debate has yet to commence. Though even if you consider the discontent among Democrats, know the president will be working this very hard to keep Democrat opposition down. Senator John Kyl of Arizona, the Republican who helped negotiate this deal, has called the reaction he has gotten generally positive.
And there is a lot of pushback against the criticism within the party by some other big names, big Republican names. Remember Karl Rove? He was on KMOX Radio in St. Louis yesterday. When asked about it, he said: Is it perfect? No, but everybody gave something up. And here's his advice to people considering voting for or against.
(Soundbite of radio show)
Mr. KARL ROVE (Former Senior Adviser, Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush): You know, I say go for it. I mean, I'd rather get 65 or 75 or 80 percent of what we want, than to hold out for the perfect and not get it.
GONYEA: And Renee, there are a lot of party regulars who echo that. Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele called it encouraging that the White House is now willing to stop all of the job-killing tax hikes scheduled for January 1st. Americans for a Limited Government call it a step in the right direction. But again, they quickly add, more needs to be done.
MONTAGNE: And then, of course, there's a big group of incoming Republicans, to the House and the Senate. They can't vote yet, but what kind of reaction have they had?
GONYEA: Well, I talked yesterday to congressman-elect David Schweikert, who represents Arizona's 5th district - that's Tempe, Scottsdale. He won't say if he would vote yay or nay. He doesn't have a vote. But he does say this deal doesnt seem to reflect what he sees as the message of last month's election.
Congressman-elect DAVID SCHWEIKERT (Republican, Arizona): It's wonderful that we're starting to provide some visibility on what our tax liability is going to be. It's disappointing that it's only for a couple of years. If we really want long-term capital investment, we're going to have to do much better than these two-year - you know, sort of patch jobs that we seem to be engaged in right now.
GONYEA: So if you listen to him and others, it sounds like the incoming class isn't yet keen on the notion of compromise.
MONTAGNE: Don, thanks very much.
GONYEA: My pleasure.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Don Gonyea.
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