The very long cloture vote is happening right now in the Senate on the motion to proceed to the tax cut bill. Because some Senators have had issues getting to Washington, particularly from the snowed-in Midwest, the vote will be held open a while. By 4pmET, the vote was 58-6 in favor, so the outcome is not really in doubt.

I want to highlight Mitch McConnell’s statement about the bill, however, because it’s really crucial to see the different perspectives on it. Democrats are accepting the budget-busting extension of the Bush tax cuts because of the stimulative effect expected from the other provisions in the bill. Republicans see those other provisions, essentially, as the impetus to cut spending and essentially cancel out the stimulative properties.

In remarks prepared for the Senate floor, Republican leader Mitch McConnell addressed critics on both sides of the agreement. Conservative groups have objected to the unemployment insurance extension included in the compromise, which they say will add unduly to the deficit.

“This bipartisan compromise represents an essential first step in tackling the debt,” McConnell said. “[B]ecause in keeping taxes where they are, we are officially cutting off the spigot.”

Exactly. This is the entire conservative project in a nutshell – starve the beast. That’s what the most conservative Congress in history wants to do and what they will seek to do. It’s true they don’t care about the deficit – but they most certainly care about spending and the size of government, and want to shrink it. That’s the meaning behind John Boehner’s statement on 60 Minutes yesterday, that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

Boehner has promised one cost-cutting measure every week in the House. New Republicans on the Appropriations Committee want to cut spending “quickly”. Their nominal leader, House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, is “raring to go” after spending. Anyone who thinks there won’t be spending cuts – in the first year – passed by the Congress (plenty of Democrats agree with this philosophy, especially in the Senate) that cancel out the stimulus from this deal, are living on another planet.

Even the presumably most “leftist” Democrats are panning this deal in the name of budget hawkery. Who’s actually going to protect the stimulus in this package, supposedly the reason for Democratic support?

“This is a short-term Washington fix,” former DNC header Howard Dean declared on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It does nothing about this biggest long-term threat to America, which is the deficit. I don’t hear Republicans or Democrats talking about the deficit. There is no pain in this agreement. This is the easy way out for everybody, much as everybody is complaining, hooting and hollering, this is an inside-the-beltway fuss and somebody needs to do something about the long-term problems to this country. It is not in this bill.”

“The thing that bothers me about it is we have yet to deal with the biggest problem that is facing this country, which is the size of the deficit, and nobody is doing anything about it,” the former Vermont Governor added later. “It is easy to promise everybody tax cuts all the time. You have got to make some cuts if you are going to do that.”

This deal faces a future of savage cuts to needed public services, which will diminish its positive impact. The talk of stimulus doesn’t take into account the full picture.

David Dayen

David Dayen