MILWAUKEE — In the fiscal cliff negotiations, there are clear lines between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans says the debt and deficit should be dealt with by spending cuts. Democrats are pushing for a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans. The question is where can the two sides compromise?
Complicating the talks is the Norquist pledge nearly all Republican lawmakers have signed saying they will never vote to raise taxes. All six Republican congressmen representing Wisconsin have signed the pledge. U.S. Congressman Tom Petri says, “I have to represent the interests of the people of my district, and do what’s right.”
Congressman Petri represents Sheboygan and Ozaukee Counties, and says Republican lawmakers should back away from the Norquist pledge. “I’m going to vote the way I think makes sense, not on something Gorver Norquist says,” says Congressman Petri. “I think George Bush when I dealt with that was 1988, and his position and the Republican position was read my lips no new taxes.”
Norquist is the 56-year-old lobbyist who heads up the group Americans For Tax Reform. 219 house members and 39 senators have signed saying they’ll never vote to raise taxes. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson says, “What are we supposed to compromise on? I don’t know the plan other than increasing taxes on the top two percent. It doesn’t even come close to fixing the problem.”
UW-Milwaukee Professor of Governmental Affairs Mordecai Lee says, “This is, in a sense, exhibit A of what’s wrong with American politics, because you could have a kindergartner create a compromise for this. This is so obvious, it’s staring everybody in the face.”
Lee says the problem is hardened positions that create aversion to compromise. “We live in an era of ideology where it’s almost like elections don’t matter, results don’t matter. If I hold this ideology whether it’s left of center or right of center, then nothing changes regardless of the circumstances.”
Faith leaders are planning to demonstrate outside the Milwaukee offices of both Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators, Democrat Herb Kohl and Republican Ron Johnson.