Isakson pointed to the Thursday meeting between House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama, where the two attempted yet again to reach a tax-and-spending agreement that would avoid an economy-threatening series of wide-ranging tax increases and spending cuts that could come in just weeks.
“That’s an optimistic sign, that talks are still going on,” Isakson said.
Price said his sense about what will happen changes almost by the hour.
“Just as an example, two days ago I really thought that we would be at a point where we would solve this prior to Christmas,” Price said. “I thought that Washington would be able to vote on a piece of legislation that would get us past this by Dec. 23. Yesterday it became apparent to me and others that that just wasn’t going to be the case. So I now think that we will be back in Washington between Christmas and New Year’s working on this challenge. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to solve it by Dec. 30 or 31. Washington oftentimes works best with a deadline and a crisis, and we have both confronting us.”
Gingrey said the odds were 55 percent of not going off the cliff.
“I just don’t feel overly confident, and certainly from my own perspective I am prepared to vote no,” Gingrey said. “I certainly hope (Boehner) doesn’t bring us a bad deal. I’m sure he won’t perceive it to be a bad deal, but people in my district I’ve heard from pretty loud and clear, and they just absolutely —I’m going to say it’s 10 to 1 — say, ‘don’t raise taxes. We’re taxed enough already and you guys have just got to have the discipline to cut the spending and reform entitlements,’ and that is the problem, and it’s not that just because the president feels he’s got a Band-Aid and he wants to make us fold on no new taxes.”
Obama and other Democrats such as U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-South Cobb) have insisted that the Bush tax cuts not be extended for the top 2 percent of income earners. The Associated Press quoted Sen Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) on Thursday saying Obama would likely win that fight.
Asked if he agrees, Isakson said, “Well, he’s got a pat hand. He’s got a full house, aces over kings, and we’re trying to draw to an inside straight. I mean, he’s got the Senate in terms of Harry Reid, a 53 to 47 majority in the Senate, and when you’ve got the White House and one branch of Congress, that gives you a pretty strong hand to play.”
Gingrey said he didn’t know whether Obama would win the tax fight or not, although he’d heard the talk about Obama prevailing also.
“If he does, I don’t think the Republican conference in the House is going to accept that unless there is I mean some absolute ironclad language regarding entitlement reform and significant cuts to offset the sequester, the first year of the sequester,” Gingrey said.
The three lawmakers said they would not support raising taxes for top income earners.
“The president’s proposal to increase taxes will fund the federal government with the increased revenue that he projects not for eight years, not for eight months, not for eight weeks, but for eight days,” Price said. “This makes no sense whatsoever, so when you recognize that his proposal, the president’s proposal only funds the government for eight days, that means it’s a political proposal, not a policy proposal that has any merit.”
Price pointed out that the Obama administration has had four years of $1 trillion plus in deficit spending.
“We’re spending more than a trillion dollars every year than we have,” Price said. “Because of the real-life adverse consequences to people, going off the fiscal cliff is not wise public policy. That being said, it is not wise public policy to continue to spend more money than we take in a huge degree, continue to increase taxes on real Americans and continue to have public policy that makes it more difficult to get our economy back on track. So it’s a balance that has to occur. Sadly, at this point the president has refused to negotiate in good faith and with sincerity.”
The Journal asked the three lawmakers whether they thought Speaker Boehner was doing a good job at the negotiating table.
“Trying to negotiate with a president that refuses to admit reality — and that is that we spend much more money than we take in, and that is the crux of the problem — is a huge challenge,” Price said. “I don’t envy him his job.”
Isakson said he trusts Boehner.
“John Boehner is a good friend of mine, and I think he’s a good congressman,” he said. “I trust his judgment and his ability.”
Gingrey answered the question by saying, “I would say to that ‘yes, but stay tuned.’ I haven’t seen anything. Just a minimal. The president will absolutely not give us any clue as to where he’s willing to cut or how far he’s willing to go in regard to entitlement reform in particular, Medicare and Social Security, one of them scheduled to be insolvent by no later than 2022, and the other one I think the date now is something like 2034 on Social Security, and nobody denies those numbers. … yet the president is out like he’s still campaigning for his point of view, if he’s not on the golf course. I think in that context, Speaker Boehner is doing everything he can possibly do.”
In a recent Washington Post column, Charles Krauthammer said Obama’s real goal was not to solve the debt crisis but to cause Boehner to cave, “and let the Republican civil war begin.”
Gingrey said he agrees with Krauthammer.
“I do agree with him that that’s Obama’s game plan and that’s what he’s hoping for,” Gingrey said. “But I think he’s going to be sadly disappointed. I think it will only embolden the Republican conference. I can’t speak for the Senate but only the House. And I think it will embolden the tea party. It will embolden those of us that lowering taxes, putting people back to work ultimately generates more revenue, and that’s the only way that we are going to solve this debt and deficit problem. We’re not going to do it by having a 2, 3 or 4 percent marginal rate increase on the top 2 percent. You’ve heard it said many times over the last several weeks, that funds the government about eight days. That’s why I say I think Charles Krauthammer is spot-on in regard to his guesstimate as to what the president is thinking.”
Isakson said Krauthammer may be right.
“Do I think the president has a political motivation in us going off the cliff to try and hurt the Republican Party? I think that’s part of it,” Isakson said. “He is the one taking us over the cliff. If your chief guy in the Senate, Dick Durbin, says you won’t do any Medicare reform, and you say ‘I won’t do anything until the other side does something,’ and yet the other side does proposals and you won’t even look at them, that’s not a honest broker, so I think from that evidence it appears that he would like for us to go off the cliff.”