WASHINGTON – As Mitt Romney put both feet in it last week, some Republican governors protested that theirs is not the party of the superrich but really of middle-class “conservatives.” In the coming weeks, the GOP is going to have a chance to show where it is really going as its House majority deals with tax issues.
New York Republicans, meanwhile, are still making up their minds about what they are.
First, some background: In a conference call to contributors, Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, claimed he lost because of the financial “gifts” President Obama made to groups who supported the Democrat.
This arrogant remark underscored the snide comment Romney made previously to wealthy donors that Obama had already bought the votes of 47 percent of Americans who received income support from the government.
At the Republican Governors Conference in Las Vegas, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana exploded, saying the GOP wants to be the party of 100 percent of the people; “not just 53 percent.”
But Obama, in his first post-election news conference, again put House Republicans against the wall – portraying them as likely defenders of the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. With the Bush-Cheney tax cuts expiring, Obama said he would quickly sign a bill that would cut the taxes of all but the top 2 percent of filers.
But Obama insisted he would not sign any bill continuing those Bush-Cheney breaks for the superrich, who incidentally got almost all of the income growth of the last decade. It’s the victorious president’s 2 percent solution.
Jindal and some other GOP governors are leaving the door open to the tax increases for these top-tier filers that are needed to cut back the deficit. But not House Republicans. They’re trapped by Romneyism (along with talk radio) and Grover Norquist.
Norquist is the founder and president for life of Americans for Tax Reform. He has persuaded almost every House Republican to sign a no-tax increase pledge. This group includes Congressman-elect Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning. That’s every one of the six Republicans in the state delegation in the upcoming 113th Congress, except one – Rep. Richard Hanna of Barneveld.
The Norquist pledge packs little political punch even in suburban or rural New York. Four House Republican candidates who made the promise, including two incumbents, lost. Collins did not return a call asking for his position on his Norquist pledge, but Reed’s spokesman said he would wait and see what evolves out of talks between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the president.
State Republican Chairman Ed Cox took no position on the Norquist pledge, but suggested House Republicans can find a way out through “dynamic scoring.” That’s a term in vogue to describe a mix of tax loophole closings and code simplification that some say would generate new revenue.
This course is complicated by part 2 of the Norquist pledge. That vows opposition to eliminating tax credits and deductions unless they are revenue neutral.
Of Obama’s tax posture, Cox told me that “Obama is divisively raising class warfare even after the election. That’s not good for the country.”
Jindal, who will head the Republican governors, blasted what he called “dumbed-down conservatism” in an interview with Politico. Republicans, he said, must be the party of solutions.
“We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys,” Jindal said. “We need to stop being simplistic; we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”
From Louisiana, this sounds like a way to start reviving your grandparents’ Republicanism, even in New York.