Himes on Compromising and the Tax-Cut Deal

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Jim Himes, the recently re-elected Democratic Congressman of Connecticut's 4th District, weighs in on  President Obama's tax cuts compromise.

This week, the Senate is expected to vote on the controversial tax cut agreement the President made with Congressional Republicans last week. The plan would extend the Bush era tax cuts in exchange for extended unemployment benefits, among other concessions. One of the plan's supporters is Congressman Jim Himes, but his whole heart isn't in it.

Himes was part of the first group of Congressmen to propose a temporary extension of the upper income Bush tax cuts as a way to prevent losing tax-cuts for the middle class. Even though there are provisions he doesn't like in this agreement, he says he'll vote for the plan when he's up to bat. The temporary tax cut extension is stimulative in nature and he thinks "it's the best we're going to get." He calls the estate tax provisions "irresponsible at best" but this is the nature of a compromise, he says: nobody's completely satisfied.

Here are his reasons to vote YES:

One, we've got to get it done.  If we don't get it done, taxes go up on everybody on December 31st and that's not a good outcome. Two, there is virtue in compromise here and I think that we, as a Congress and we, as a people want, need to get some practice in the art of compromise which means, by definition, that nobody's going to be entirely happy. 

The third reason is political; he worries what may happen if the House doesn't pass the plan.

If the Democrats in the House scuttle this thing, it's just as clear as day what happens. Taxes go up on everybody on New Year's Eve.  The Republicans take control of the House a week later. A week and a day later, they pass a package which I promise you, from the Democratic standpoint will be not nearly as good as what we have right now, and then they tell the story that the Democrats, a week ago, raised taxes on every single American and we [the Republicans] came in our white horses and lowered them.

Himes says there was also a poor choice made in the negotiations process for the tax cut compromise -- excluding the House Democrats.

I think the House is co-equal with the Senate and the Congress is co-equal with the President and I think it was a tactical mistake for the negotiators to exclude Chris Van Hollen, who was the House negotiator on this issue. As a result, there's no sense of buy-in by the house leadership into this plan and that has been reflected in the way that they have talked about it.

This bad-call in the process is why many Democrats are angry, says Himes. But one caller argued another reason too; sometimes the President compromises when he doesn't need to, and this tax cut plan is an example of that. 

The buzzword for Himes is compromise, compromise, compromise. He agreed the plan isn't great and it's important to fight for your values, but without compromise in the tool box, it's hard to get anything done.