-- The amount of new spending over the next decade in the “fiscal cliff” legislation passed by Congress on Tuesday as scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
Only in Washington can “deficit control” legislation increase deficit spending.
But the deal cobbled together by the White House and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was not about the deficit, and it wasn’t even about what President Obama said was having top earners pay “their fair share.”
Remember that Obama rejected a proposal that would have had wealthy taxpayers cough up nearly $200 billion more over the next decade in order to win on a narrow, ideological point: that tax rates, not just tax payments, would go up.
When Republicans returned to Washington after their Election Day defeat, House Speaker John Boehner came to the president with an offer of $800 billion in higher taxes for top earners in the form of lower deductions. Obama rejected that out of hand saying that not only was he looking for twice as much money but that the money had to come in the form of an increase in the top marginal tax rate.
Republicans were a bit baffled because they assumed that Obama would be eager to do a deal, claim victory and move on to his second term. Instead, the president made it clear that he would take the negotiations right to the brink and beyond.
In the course of the 57 days it took to get the deal done, many had called for using the looming tax hikes and spending cuts as an opportunity to engage in some meaningful fiscal reform, perhaps curbing entitlement spending or reshaping the bramble of a tax code.
The thinking here was that after a rocky first term and two years marked mostly by fiscal fighting with Republicans, Obama would be eager to open his second stint in the White House showing moderation and bipartisanship. After running the nastiest re-election campaign in history, Obama was assumed by many to want to show a capacity for broad thinking.
The president obviously didn’t want that either, saying that any such changes would have to wait until after taxes increased – perhaps even until the end of 2013 -- before taking up such considerations. And at moments when he might have coaxed a deal out of reticent Republicans, Obama instead taunted and goaded his foes.
And in the end, Obama got exactly what he wanted: more taxes, more spending and no cuts.
The lesson for Republicans from this is simple. The old Obama, a cautious, calculating practitioner of politics, is no more. Second term Obama is more ideologically rigid and more willing to take risks. And having just gotten precisely what he wanted out of this lame duck session of Congress, those tendencies will be intensified.
While Republicans made much noise about moving on to address spending cuts now that the tax hikes were in place, not even the most trusting soul could believe that the president is now interested in cutting anything.
Conservatives say that they are ready to fight Obama on the still-looming federal borrowing limit. They had better be ready to take it all the way and actually start shutting down the government. The second-term Obama on display in the “fiscal cliff” fight looks like a man perfectly willing to do exactly that.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“For House Republicans, when you go into negotiations with Obama, you will be asked to give up your sword and your shirt. When you leave the room just make sure you still have your trousers. Looking at the bill we got out of the Senate, they were trouser-less. So this has not been a good negotiating session.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.