January 2nd, 2013
09:27 AM ET
5 years ago

Cliff vote sets up potential 2016 flashpoint

(CNN) - Political junkies were picturing the scene before the gavel came down: Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Marco Rubio, sparring on an Iowa debate stage in December 2015, explaining their three-year-old votes on the deal designed to avert the fiscal cliff.

The top prospective Republican presidential candidates on Capitol Hill took opposite sides on the package that will stave off automatic tax increases - Rubio and Paul said "no" in the Senate's 2 a.m. vote on New Year's Day, while Ryan said "yes" when the House voted nearly 20 hours later.

The plan approved Tuesday raises tax rates for individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples earning more than $450,000 - marking the first time in two decades that rates jump for the wealthiest Americans. Raising rates has long been anathema to Republicans, though the timing of Tuesday's vote technically allows them to say they lowered tax rates, since rates automatically increased on January 1.

Whether voters understand that distinction remains to be seen. Top conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform pushes candidates to sign a pledge never to raise taxes, said the plan wouldn't violate his group's beliefs.

"The Bush tax cuts lapsed at midnight last night," Norquist tweeted Tuesday. "Every (Republican) voting for Senate bill is cutting taxes and keeping his/her pledge."

Other conservative voices were less forgiving. Amy Kremer, the chairwoman of the Tea Party Express, wrote on Twitter she was "extremely disgusted with what happened in the House tonight."

"There will be consequences," she warned.

Matt Kibbe, the president of the conservative tea party-aligned group Freedomworks, said the bill that passed the House was an "epic fail," and offered a similar notice to congressional leaders.

"If Congressional leadership fails to do the bare minimum to secure our economic future, then we will find someone that will," Kibbe said.

Conservative columnist and CNN contributor Erick Erickson was to the point on Twitter: "Thus ends the Paul Ryan 2016 Presidential Exploratory Committee."

As he left the House floor Tuesday, Ryan hinted that he recognized the anger on the right.

"I am not afraid of anything," Ryan said. "I think it needed to pass."

In a statement later, he described his decision-making in more detail: "As elected officials, we have a duty to apply our principles to the realities of governing. And we must exercise prudence."

"Will the American people be better off if this law passes relative to the alternative?" Ryan continued. "In the final analysis, the answer is undoubtedly yes. I came to Congress to make tough decisions-not to run away from them."

Rubio took the opposite side, writing Tuesday that, "rapid economic growth and job creation will be made more difficult under the deal reached here in Washington."

"This deal just postpones the inevitable, the need to solve our growing debt crisis and help the 23 million Americans who can't find the work they need," he wrote.

Sen. Rand Paul - the son of repeat GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul - told Wolf Blitzer Monday he didn't like the measure since it meant Congress was "kicking the can down the road and we aren't really addressing the real crisis in our country." The tea party favorite has not ruled out a run for president in 2016.

Ryan's "aye" vote put the House Budget Committee chairman at odds with his fellow GOP "young guns" - Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Whip Kevin McCarthy of California - who both broke with House Speaker John Boehner to cast "no" votes on the deal.

The trio wrote a book together in 2010, just before Republicans took control of the House. The "young gun" designation followed Ryan throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, when his selection as Mitt Romney's running mate was hailed as a nod to a new brand of budget-conscious fiscal conservatism.

That label has been similarly foisted upon Marco Rubio, who campaigned against fellow Republican Charlie Crist in a 2010 Senate primary based largely on Crist's support for the 2009 stimulus bill. Since then, Rubio has spoken forcefully about the need to cut federal spending, including during his high-profile Republican National Convention speech last summer in Tampa.

The split between Ryan and Rubio - and the overwhelming number of House Republicans who voted against the plan - are signs of political maneuvering, said CNN contributor John Avlon.

"You can already see the fault lines. That clearly is a calculation about future ambitions," Avlon said on CNN's "Starting Point." "The ratio was two-to-one, almost two-to-one Republicans voted against this deal who voted for it. That means they believe this is a liability in a primary process."

Long, detailed voting records have long been a thorn in the side of senators and congressmen with presidential aspirations. In 2008, President Barack Obama became the first senator to be elected to the White House since John F. Kennedy Jr. - and Obama hadn't even completed an entire term in the upper chamber.

Single votes in Congress almost always resurface during heated presidential primary and general election campaigns. Sen. John Kerry spent the spring and summer of 2004 explaining why he voted against a supplemental appropriation for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including telling a crowd he "actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

And Hillary Clinton's vote in the Senate to authorize the war in Iraq provided fodder for her then-rival Barack Obama during their battle for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

CNN's Dan Merica contributed to this report.

Filed under: Fiscal Cliff • Marco Rubio • Paul Ryan
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Karl Jonas

    Lyin' Ryan is toast.

    January 2, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  2. Ancient Texan

    Caving was not what Conservative voters expected of their duly elected represententative.

    January 2, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  3. Richard Miller

    TWO (2) of the biggest losers in Congress-throw the bums out!

    January 2, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  4. plain&simple

    At least Ryan is showing a brain toward his perception in a general election.....learned something from this last election!

    January 2, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  5. Anonymous

    I think the numbers in the budgetary issues have become so big that many in Congress are voting on "principles", instead of by the numbers. In fact, the numbers have become so large, the economic variables so diverse, that understanding and digesting a grand bargain almost requires the skills of one with a doctorate in economics. Grand bargains reached now are likely to be far too complex for most members to properly evaluate. Those members will stand on "principles", which is exactly the problem we have now, which in my opinion is a cut and run.

    Piece meal legislation may have to become the path for governing, at least temporarily, and hopefully without the doomsday deadlines that have encumbered the Congress and the economy for the past few years. Just think of what your grocery looks like. Now imagine one with at least 12 decimal places on it.

    January 2, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. conniesz

    Very interesting. What this tells me is I need to give Ryan more credit than I did before when it comes to being a true patriot. He was willing to put the good of the country ahead of the tea party agenda and that's a good thing. The young man may actually have a real future as a leader. As for Rubio and Paul – they are just noise machines and do not have realistic chances of ever becoming President of the United States.

    January 2, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  7. Blinded by the republican lie

    Neither one of these men will ever be President. They are too extreme on the right.

    January 2, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  8. Karl Jonas

    ps: to Lyin' Ryan IS toast... Randy Paul will NEVER ever be president.

    January 2, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  9. Anonymous

    Ancient Texan wrote:

    Caving was not what Conservative voters expected of their duly elected represententative.
    Most voters are all too well are of that, already. Why do you think conservatives lost seats in the House nad Senate, and lost the White House? Because people expected Republicans to compromise? Of course, not.

    You're putting to much credence in the right wing media's alternative realities, Tex. People understand what putting Republicans into elected office means. The right wing's problem is that more and more people are understanding the consequences of doing so. Happy New Year for the Republicans, Tex. They don't have many left.

    January 2, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  10. rs

    Never mind 2016, 0r even 2014. At the current rate of burn, with every battle the super-radical Republicans set up over budgets, sequestration, taxes, the debt limit and taxes, their popularity plummets. Will anyone be interested in them after 2014? I doubt it.
    The TEA Party and the GOP have gone down the road of the Taliban- they're toast and they know it.

    January 2, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  11. Anonymous

    None of these clowns will ever be president.

    January 2, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  12. GuestAgain

    This is good for most tax payers while it does absolutely nothing to resolve our massive debt. So, business as usual in D.C. – district of corruption

    January 2, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |

    Ryan is finally coming to his senses,..the Wisconsin electorate fired a warning salvo his way this past election..., that he needs to moderate and distance himself from the radical far right. Rubio and Rand Paul are the big losers here.

    January 2, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  14. rs

    Ancient Texan

    Caving was not what Conservative voters expected of their duly elected represententative.
    You are certainly correct. I didn't expect them to because it makes way too much sense. The radical GOP/TEA Party so far has simply raced to get to "No!" on virtually anything that will help America or Americans- even filibustering their own bills! The sooner they figure out they are becoming an endangered species, the sooner we can get on with rational government.

    January 2, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  15. Anonymous

    from the article:

    Other conservative voices were less forgiving. Amy Kremer, the chairwoman of the Tea Party Express, wrote on Twitter she was "extremely disgusted with what happened in the House tonight."
    The chairman is hypocrite. (Yes, chairman I wrote. Never understood the ERA movement's push to rewrite the language. If you want equal rights and equal treatment, then why distinguish yourself with distinctive titles?) She is a hypocrite of the worst type for conservatives.

    Sunday, she asserted that the Tea Party would never support, nor vote to raise taxes. Never, not ever. Then within the same breathe, she complained about the "47% who pay no taxes" and "corporations who pay no taxes". She continued to advocate for raising taxes with the worn out talking about "broadening the base". She's either a hypocrite, or thinks we're all brain dead followers.

    January 2, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  16. rs

    Yup, "cut taxes and spend" is the GOP specialty- one of their toads was bragging they pulled off the biggest tax cut in history last night. How does it feel to be the member of a party run by Grover Norquist for Grover Norquist?

    January 2, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  17. Jim Hahn

    Republicans have locked themselves out of the White House for at least the next 12 years. They seems to be under the delusion that obstruction is governance while it's quite the opposite. Republicans have yet to show the American people that they can lead and govern. They have vacated the center and the Democrats will gladly take that mantle and lead for the foreseeable future.

    January 2, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Ryan, Rubio, and Rand nothing but retreads of the Party that once possesed common sense, civic duty, and civility.

    Happy New Year everyone!

    January 2, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  19. Pete

    All these republicans will be out after midterms I predict and even now with them basicly painting themselves in a political corner they still don't get it do they!!Republicans large in numbers,small in mentality have never been the economic pros that they claim just lawyers,doctors and a bunch of racist old white men that should be home retired but are too arrogent to say they're old and quit..Put limits on terms and change the rules where if they don't work to help the people of America than throw their asses out,plain and simple because with their attitudes and arrogence they couldn't get a job greeting people at Walmarts and they know it..Make it a requirement that a performance clause is written if they get elected and if they don't show progress in their position than they're gone,that's it..Remember people who pay their inflated salaries,we do so let them know who they work for,enough is enough!!

    January 2, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  20. Larry L

    @Ancient Texan

    Caving was not what Conservative voters expected of their duly elected represententative.
    ================================================================================================ You're correct. Conservative voters expect mindless allegiance to Grover Norquist pledges, moronic compliance with N.R.A. directives, and complete obstructionism rather than pragmatic compromise for the good of the Nation. That's why conservatives are rapidly becoming irrelevant in our political process. You expect overly-simplistic solutions for extremely complex problems.

    January 2, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  21. Publius Novus

    I don't like any of these three fellows. But let's be clear–only Rep. Ryan faced a difficult vote, because his vote mattered. Sens. Paul and Rubio had free shots in the Senate. It really didn't matter what they did.

    January 2, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  22. Sueb

    Congratulations to the 112th Congress–you did something! Now, was that so hard? No offense, but here's hoping that the 113th Congress is better than you guys.....a threshold, I might add, that will not be hard to beat.

    January 2, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  23. Anonymous

    Not one of these three men will be on the ticket in 2016. All three of them are reaching media over-kill territory as it is.

    January 2, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  24. Randy, San Francisco

    Forget the GOP/Tea Party rebranding talk. The election results have taught them nothing. A majority of Americans want common sense solutions and compromise to the country's fiscal problems and not strict and blind adherence to ideological purity.

    January 2, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  25. Pete

    These guys are toast if it keeps up they might have to return some of their salary because they sure haven't worked for it have they..Now you have governors from the storm ravaged states asking for assistance and all you get from the republicans is a cold shouldered response ..So wait till midterms people especially republicans because you'll be unemployed and you know it,karma is something you don't take for granted republicans,I warned you didn't I!!

    January 2, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
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