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Which is why the tax bill is widely projected to pass as it stands now. And though it is distasteful to many on the Left and the Right, it represents bipartisanship; usually chimerical and unsatisfying to the extremes. To the center, however, the compromise is relatively popular. It seems to enjoy broad support from the public, including large swathes of liberals and conservatives. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows approximately 60% of the public approves of the tax bill compromise. The majority of self-identifying liberals and conservatives also approve, including 68% of Republicans. Bipartisanship has won the day.
There is even bipartisanship over the recognition of the fundamental problem of the bill. Opposition from both the Left and the Right centrally involves fear over the radically ballooning deficit. Echoing left-wing frustration, former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean recently told NPR’s Neal Conan that the federal deficit was more dangerous than al-Qaeda (in reference to the tax bill). Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) vocally opposed the tax bill before it was passed, flaunting their conservative bone fides on the political talk show circuit. Many pundits, both liberal and conservative, have parroted the same. As the tax cut debate has escalated on the national stage, both parties have, in an interesting way, brought worries over the deficit and prodigal spending acutely into focus.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the $1.1 trillion “omnibus,” or general federal spending bill released Tuesday was met with even more pronounced opposition. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has vowed to join with Republicans to stop the bill. Senator DeMint has threatened to request the bill be read out loud on the Senate floor in order to slow the process. The Obama administration has refused to voice any support for the bill. The measure does not, at this time, seem to have the support to pass the House or Senate — from either the Left or the Right. If it does manage to make its way through the Congress, future House Speaker John Boehner has asked the president to prove his commitment to fiscal responsibility and veto it.
Much of the outrage over the omnibus bill is no doubt attributable to public perception of the type of spending at issue. Whereas unemployment benefits and tax breaks are perhaps reasonable to charge to the national Visa in exigent circumstances, so-called omnibus spending — complete with ludicrous earmarks for things like “maple research” — has been a toxic issue for quite some time. Even during the 2008 presidential election then-candidate Obama and his Republican rival John McCain were virtually indistinguishable on the issue of earmarks, as they vied for popular support.
National refocusing on the deficit, along with a grotesque spending bill at which to direct political ire, makes a government shut-down a la 1995 a palpable reality. From its introduction, the omnibus bill has faced minimal support, which deteriorates with each passing day. And yet, the bill is needed to keep government operative. The hope is that a resolution can be reached before then, perhaps in the form of provisional funding for only essential government functions. If not this is not possible, an unwanted government spectacle may already be at our doorstep — just as the bipartisan fellowship wears off.
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