The Buffalo News is reporting that Rep. Tom Reed spent Thursday lobbying fellow Republican members of the House on behalf of Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B,” This legislation would have repealed the Bush-era tax cuts on those earning $1 million or more, rather than those earning $250,000, as originally proposed by President Obama, who later raised the proposed cutoff to $400,000.
Reed was reportedly “frustrated” by his lack of success after Boehner withdrew Plan B from floor consideration because it lacked the support of a majority of the Republican caucus. Boehner then sent the House home until after Christmas, bringing the nation ever closer to the fiscal cliff.
What are we to make of Rep. Reed’s efforts on behalf of the Boehner proposal? Is this an instance of the congressman acting as a moderate and a compromiser, trying to bring tea party extremists back into the fold? Far from it. To understand why, we have to take a close look at what happened in the House on Thursday evening.
Before Plan B was slated for a vote, the House passed HR6684, The Spending Reduction Act of 2012 – a Republican concoction intended to undo the terms of Budget Control Act of 2011. That act, which ended the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, automatically triggers $1.2 trillion in spending cuts starting at the beginning of 2013, unless there is an agreement leading to deficit reduction legislation. The cuts are to be divided evenly between defense spending and spending on civilian programs.
The Spending Reduction Act would eliminate the requirement that the cuts be evenly divided, reaffirming an earlier House vote, in an effort to throw the weight of budget cuts onto the civilian sector. Spending on education, medical and scientific research, clean energy, infrastructure, women’s health, and a host of other programs vital to economic growth would be at risk. In addition, Thursday’s bill would specifically eliminate social services block grants, which fund Meals on Wheels — as mentioned in an earlier post, cut funding for child care and aid to the disabled, dismantle programs to help homeowners and prevent foreclosures, and eliminate guaranteed funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is designed to protect consumers from predatory practices affecting their mortgages, credit cards, and loans.
This is the bill Rep. Reed voted for on Thursday night. It was a bill intended to assuage the tea party extremists who were demanding that spending cuts be a part of Plan B. These spending cuts would be harmful to the vast majority of Rep. Reed’s constituents.
Meanwhile, the congressman’s position in support of Plan B would have been very helpful to the rich, if Plan B had remained alive. Boehner’s proposal to raise the limit on income subject to higher tax rates to $1 million would save millionaires an estimated $50,000 in taxes as compared to their situation if the limit were left at $250,000. (The $250,000 cutoff is included in a bill that has already passed the Senate but is being kept from the House floor by Republican leaders.)
Fortunately, neither the Spending Reduction Act nor Plan B stand a chance of passing the Senate, and would be vetoed by President Obama if they did. But Rep. Reed’s actions with respect to these doomed proposals show us a great deal about his true positions.