Boehner has some experience with that -- his House Republicans pushed the country to the brink of default last year rather than strike a deal with Democrats on a debt-ceiling increase. Perhaps the public has heard enough hyperventilating by Washington pols to know better than to take it seriously. But the trouble with the current set of House Republicans is that, given the choice between compromising and hurting the economy, they've been choosing the latter.
At issue is what to do about the so-called fiscal cliff looming on Jan. 1, 2013, when a number of temporary tax cuts expire and significant across-the-board spending reductions kick in. If those happen as scheduled, the Congressional Budget Office and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke have warned, the country could be thrown back into recession.
Lawmakers have plenty of time to reach agreement on a multiyear plan to pare the deficit through spending cuts and tax increases, as several blue-ribbon groups have recommended. Boehner's troops in the House -- whose antics on the debt ceiling led to the first downgrade of the U.S. credit rating in history -- don't seem interested in bargaining, however. Instead, they've been passing uncompromising bills to address the fiscal cliff that have no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate, such as one shrinking food stamps and other social programs in order to spare the Defense Department from much of next year's cuts.
Democrats shouldn't be cowed into embracing bad tax policy by Republicans who oppose any real increase in revenue even though most Americans say they support a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts to eliminate the deficit. Boehner wants people to overlook the fact that extending tax cuts that pile on more debt will hurt the economy too. But the biggest threat is that lawmakers will spend the rest of the year posturing instead of hammering out a grand bargain that not only avoids the cliff, but assures the public that Washington can put its fiscal house in order.
-- Los Angeles Times