It’s All About The Compromise Caucus

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No sooner did the White House leak details of its new(ish) corporate tax reform plan than John Boehner and Mitch McConnell very publicly trashed it, which led to a familiar and predictable dust up wherein Democrats condemned Republicans for reflexively opposing things President Obama supports and Republicans complained (apparently falsely) that the White House didn’t contact them about the plan before promoting it in the press.

These are all key ingredients for substance-free paint by numbers news stories about Washington dysfunction, or picayune laments that the proposal has nothing to do with the deficit. Tastes vary.

But so long as we’re approaching this story from a political rather than substantive vantage point, I’d just say all of the point-scoring going on between the White House and GOP leaders is a big distraction.Just about everything the White House and Congressional Democratic leaders propose at this point is intended to bolster the fledgling consensus caucus in the Senate — or at least is crafted with the goal of winning over those Republicans in mind.

That’s why we’re talking about a small bore jobs plan that directs dollars to popular government initiatives and a pretty generic, revenue neutral tax reform plan that concedes lower rates in advance.

It’s also why the White House and Senate Democrats aren’t trying to turn off sequestration in the appropriations process.

And it’s part of the reason Democrats welcome these Quixotic conservative attempts to make defunding Obamacare the ransom for keeping the government open or increasing the debt limit. Setting aside the damage that kind of radicalism does to the GOP nationally, this behavior is at long last splintering the GOP rather than uniting it behind a path-of-most-resistance conservative consensus. It’s invigorating the dozen-or-so Senate Republicans who are done with the 2011 way of doing things.

So it’s no surprise that Boehner and McConnell rejected this latest White House idea out of hand. The real question is what do Susan Collins and John McCain and Bob Corker and the rest of them think of it. Obviously their support wouldn’t mean the plan would pass cleanly in the Senate this week or this fall, let alone become law. But it would be an indication that the same group that’s been instrumental in confirming Obama nominees and fighting the right over defunding Obamacare is coalescing around the kinds of ideas that could be included in a future legislative package that would also probably include an increase in the debt ceiling.

This post has been updated for clarity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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