The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

October 21, 2013

Despite setback, GOP has impressive budgetary wins

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats who gloat over Republicans' bad week in Congress might pause to recall that conservatives still own major victories from past budget showdowns. And these wins may again thwart Democrats' hopes of changing tax-and-spend policies in two-party talks beginning anew in the Capitol.

Chief among them is Republicans' unified stand against tax increases, even in the name of deficit reduction.

President Barack Obama wants more revenue from corporations and the wealthy for two goals: investing in areas such as education and infrastructure and enticing congressional Democrats to start curbing the growth of Social Security, Medicare and other "entitlement" programs.

Congressional Republicans' adamant stand against revenue hikes, perhaps more than any other factor, has shaped budget negotiations over the past three years. That's why Republicans have a stronger record than many might suspect, especially given their pell-mell retreat last week on the government shutdown and debt ceiling.

Prodded by tea party activists who deplored deficit spending under Republican President George W. Bush, today's GOP lawmakers repeatedly call for budget cuts. By that measure, they've had a respectable run.

The mandatory spending cuts known as the "sequester," which emerged from earlier budget stalemates, will total about $1 trillion through 2021, unless changed. That's in addition to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts agreed to in 2011, in yet another debt-ceiling showdown.

To be sure, the GOP's anti-tax stand isn't bullet proof. Obama and Democratic lawmakers extracted $620 billion in tax hikes over 10 years in last December's "fiscal cliff" showdown.

Some liberals complain, however, that Obama could have — and should have — gotten more while he had the chance. Obama campaigned on raising income taxes on all couples earning more than $250,000. But he ultimately settled for a $450,000 cutoff. Aides said he thought Republicans would agree to other revenue hikes later.

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