Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Obama Counteroffers

Tis the season for giving, and President Obama and Speaker John Boehner have been exchanging offers on the fiscal cliff, giving the rest of us headaches.

Over the weekend, Speaker Boehner conceded to raising tax rates, but only on those making more than $1 million. Yesterday President Obama made a counteroffer.

Instead of raising the top two rates, which would hit small business owners earning $250,000, the president now appears willing to accept an increase on just the top 35% bracket alone. That would essentially limit tax increases to those making $400,000 and up.

But President Obama’s counteroffer still had a lot of strings attached like an automatic two-year increase in the debt limit and more spending. In response, Speaker Boehner said, “What the White House offered yesterday — $1.3 trillion in revenue for only $850 billion in spending cuts — cannot be considered balanced. We’re going to keep the door open in hopes the president can find a way to support a balanced approach.”

Plan B

With just 13 days left until the end of the year, Speaker Boehner has decided it is time to put members of Congress on the record. His plan to allow higher taxes only on millionaires will be up for a vote on the House floor later this week.

This morning Boehner said, “Taxes are going up on everyone on Jan. 1. They’re baked into current law. And we have to stop whatever tax rate increases we can.”

It will be interesting to see whether congressional Democrats will support Boehner’s “Plan B.” The idea was initially proposed by Nancy Pelosi in May. Back then Pelosi agreed with Boehner that “we should not be raising taxes on middle-income people at this delicate time in our recovery from the worst recession in 70 years.” We will find out soon whether she and her fellow liberals still feel that way.

An Anti-Israel Secretary Of Defense?

As President Obama prepares to reshuffle his cabinet for his second term, there is growing concern about the leading candidate to replace to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. According to various reports, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel is the frontrunner.

The Huffington Post described Hagel as a “moderate Republican,” who became a “fierce critic” of President Bush’s war policies. Hagel opposed sending reinforcements to Iraq, and blasted the surge as “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.” So on one of the most important military decisions in recent memory, Hagel was dead wrong.

During his time in the Senate, Chuck Hagel was soft on Iran and hostile to Israel. In 2001, Hagel was just one of two senators to oppose sanctions against Iran. In 2007, he opposed legislation labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist front. In 2009, he urged President Obama to begin direct talks with Hamas, another terrorist group. Our friends at The Weekly Standard have posted a fact sheet on Hagel’s record.

Hagel briefly flirted with the idea of running for president in 2008. At the time, I led a coalition of conservative leaders that interviewed potential presidential contenders. What stood out most was that Hagel’s entire presentation to our group was an attack on Israel and a call to reorient our foreign policy toward the Muslim world.

Throughout his time in the Senate, Hagel consistently opposed the idea of striking Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. There is nothing to suggest that he has changed his mind since he left the Senate in 2008. In fact, he currently serves on the board of a bank that is being investigated for violating trade sanctions imposed on Iran.

Yet with each passing day, it becomes increasingly likely that the United States and Israel will have to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions or be confronted by a nuclear-armed Iran. That Hagel is under consideration to be the next Secretary of Defense strongly signals that the administration will likely continue its outreach to the tyrants in Tehran.

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