Recent reports suggest a deal between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner to avert the fiscal cliff may be possible in the coming days. But if a deal happens, it may well be a result of the Republicans giving the most ground.
Boehner has already offered to raise taxes on those earning more than $1 million per year, but the Obama administration says that's not enough. Obama is reportedly offering to raise the ceiling a bit higher on those protected from a tax increase. In return, he wants two years of hassle-free debt-ceiling increases.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., is a member of the House Budget Committee. He told WND a good deal could be struck, but he warned that Republicans should choose the fiscal cliff before they embrace an Obama plan that he said increases taxes, government and spending with no signs of reform.
"I think you go over the cliff," he said. "I think you could turn to the American people and say, 'Look, the president had it in his ability to keep your tax rates low. Since he didn't get his pound of flesh out of this small group of people over here, you're paying for it. I think folks will realize that. I think they know what they voted for. They voted for somebody who, ultimately, was going to raise their taxes. One of the best lines I heard during the presidential campaign was Paul Ryan say, 'You may say you want to raise taxes on the rich right now, but be careful because pretty soon the rich is going to be you.'"
Mulvaney said the rich used to mean people who made $1 million, but now that standard down is down to $250,000 and soon it will be $150,000 because deficits remain huge and the appetite for spending remains high.
He said Republicans need to realize that Democrats want to go over the cliff because there's nothing they're all that committed to saving.
"This is a president who wants to raise taxes. Think about that for a second. What are we fighting over? The Bush tax cuts, which the Democrats hated in the first place," Mulvaney said. "They said they didn't want it. They said it really didn't help the middle class. It was a giveaway to rich Republican friends. They didn't want these things in the first place. So to think now that they're going to the mat to defend those portions of the Bush tax cuts is a joke."
And the policy wins for the Democrats wouldn't stop there, according to Rep. Mulvaney.
"Plus, what else do they get? They get massive defense reductions – the holy grail for many within the extreme left wing of their party," he said.
As a result, Mulvaney said we're right back to where we stood prior to the debt ceiling deal in the summer of 2011. Mulvaney strongly opposed that deal and said the same principles should still apply to any proposed deal.
"One of the reasons we're here now is that when we faced almost an identical situation two years ago, Congress simply passed a two-year, short-term fix," he said. "This so-called fiscal cliff, with the exception of the sequester portion of it, came up in December 2010. Instead of fixing it then, Congress chose to kick the can down the road."
Mulvaney is not overly impressed with the plans offered by Boehner on behalf of the GOP, but he believes the speaker's biggest error is in assuming Obama and the Democrats want to find common ground.
"You know I've been critical of him in the past, critical of some of the things he's proposed," Mulvaney said. "In all frankness, and I'd say this if he were sitting next to me, I think he's wasting his time. I don't think the president wants a deal."
Mulvaney said there are plenty of ways to make this deal a strong one, and he's even willing to swallow some bad parts to get some good things. Mulvaney pointed out that he did vote for one plan to raise the debt ceiling known as "Cut, Cap & Balance" because it addressed spending and debt in meaningful, long-term ways. Ultimately, that bill failed in the Senate. This time, Mulvaney said Democrats must be willing to accept entitlement reforms that might not normally embrace.
"I think you've got to see real entitlement reform. And by the way, you can end the conversation there if you take Nancy Pelosi at her word," he said. "At her press conference, she said no to entitlement cuts. She said, 'Now we have clarity on that.' If we don't change the way we do entitlement programs, it's unlikely that we're going to have any type of agreement on this. If Democrats expect Republicans to compromise on something that is an A-1 priority for us, which is taxes and tax rates, they have to be willing to compromise on something that is an A-1 priority for them which is entitlements. If they take entitlements off the table, as Mrs. Pelosi did, then I see really no way to get to any type of agreement."
Specific Medicare reforms pushed by Mulvaney and other Republicans include slowly raising the retirement age, changing the cost of living adjustment and means-testing recipients so that wealthier retirees would either pay more or receive fewer federal benefits.
"So we've offered real ideas on how to fix Medicare and similar changes in Social Security," he said. "We've talked about the block granting of Medicaid to the states. So we've given specific ideas. Instead of getting a negotiated response, we get a door slammed in our face and told, 'No thank you.' That's not an avenue toward getting a deal done."