House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn't have much sympathy for her successor's predicament. "Figure it out," she scolded Speaker John Boehner about dealing with the fiscal cliff.
Pelosi cited her own experience dealing with President George W. Bush's request to fund the unpopular war in Iraq. A fierce opponent of the war, Pelosi still wanted to ensure that the troops weren't left high and dry. Her strategy: hold multiple votes. Democrats could go on record as opposing the war, but could still vote to fund it.
“Do you know what it was like for me to bring a bill to the floor to fund the war in Iraq?” Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “It's tough, but you have to do it if you don't want to put your members on the spot. Figure it out. We did."
She admitted it was “very unpopular and I'm not sure I ever recovered among some on the left for bringing that bill to the floor."
Working on the same principle, Pelosi urged Boehner to bring up a bill extending middle-class tax rates under a suspension of the rules, which would require a two-thirds majority to pass—something she thinks is possible. Tax rates for the wealthiest Americans would then automatically go up at year's end. “It’s painful, but it’s the job he signed up for,” said Pelosi.
Democrats say they won’t accept a solution unless it includes tax rate increases for America’s wealthiest. Closing loopholes and capping tax deductions for the wealthy—as some Republicans have suggested—is not enough, say the Dems.
Meanwhile, Boehner held a press conference of his own, saying Obama’s “plan does not fulfill his promise to bring a balanced approach…It’s mainly tax hikes.”
Boehner's comments were a letdown after it seemed that recent closed-door talks between the speaker and Obama might have made real progress toward a deal. Boehner put forth a new proposal on Tuesday, which includes $1.4 trillion in new revenue and $600 billion in spending cuts, sources tell NBC. That’s less revenue and a slight increase in cuts than what Obama has offered.
The House speaker also told lawmakers to plan on sticking around Capitol Hill for the holidays.
“Listen, I was born with a glass half full, I remain the most optimistic person in this town, but we've got some serious differences,” said Boehner.
The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson and Republican strategist Chip Saltsman weighed in on the deal’s chance for success on Wednesday night’s Hardball. Saltsman, who served as former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign manager, said Republicans’ “appetite for tax increases of any sort aren’t really high.” While some GOPers are beginning to consider raising rates on the top 2% of wealthiest Americans, Saltsman said, “the bulk of the conference is not there.” Saltsman noted the House needs 40 or 50 House Republicans to get some type of deal done, but the most they could probably get are the votes of 20 lawmakers, who are lame-duck congressmen.
Robinson agreed with host Chris Matthews that the only way to pass legislation is via a “horse and rabbit stew” of Democrats and some Republicans.
“It’s the only way it gets through the House,” said Robinson.