House Republicans’ Bizarre Negotiating Posture on Taxes

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 7: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) makes remarks on Capitol Hill on November 7, 2012 in Washington, DC. Boehner discussed the looming fiscal cliff and called on President Obama to work with House Republicans. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Most of the reporting I’ve read today on John Boehner’s post-election messaging on the Bush tax cuts is too savvy and inside baseball to correctly convey what’s happening. So here’s what’s happening. The Bush tax cuts are scheduled to fully expire at the end of the year. Barack Obama does not favor this large tax increase and is proposing substitute legislation that would reduce taxes relative to current law. House Republicans are refusing to pass this tax cut, claiming to believe that they’d rather have a larger tax hike and retain the ability to whine than to strike a deal.


Maybe that really is there preference-ordering. There are a lot of kooky people in the House of Representatives. But that’s the structure of the bargaining right now. Given the option of voting for modestly higher taxes and passively allowing substantially higher taxes to occur, Boehner says he prefers option two.

It’s weird. And frankly I don’t know why the White House or anyone in the press is taking it seriously. It’s either a totally non-credible bluff, or else it means the president is playing poker with idiots. Either way, I genuinely don’t see what there is to negotiate over.