Bruce Bartlett seems to think so. Obama’s fiscal cliff deal may have broken the hardline stance the GOP has taken on since the beginning of his presidency. It seems the logic of the Republicans who voted for the fiscal cliff deal might be, “They are going to attempt to replace me in the primaries anyway. I might as well run as a bipartisan politician, able to reach across the isle, instead of an ideological warrior.”
When Republican hopes were dashed last November, at least some of the more senior Republicans in Congress became receptive to working with Democrats once again. The fiscal cliff forced their hand. Rather than allow automatic tax increases and spending cuts to potentially tank the economy, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate negotiated a bipartisan deal with Vice President Joe Biden. They sent it to the House and promptly left town.
House Republicans had refused to participate in the negotiations because of philosophical opposition to higher taxes. But their hand was forced and at the last possible minute, House Speaker John Boehner brought the Senate bill up for a vote. Eighty-five Republicans joined 172 Democrats to pass the bill. The vast majority of Republicans, 151 in all, opposed the legislation along with 16 Democrats.
The question now is whether these same Republicans may be willing to break with the rest of their party again to support an increase in the debt limit, complete the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bills, and find a replacement for the $1.2 trillion sequester that was only delayed by the fiscal cliff deal. All three of these issues will likely be folded into one measure that must be acted upon by mid-February.
If we see another vote like the one on the fiscal cliff, with a third of House Republicans willing to vote with Democrats, it will be an event of potentially far-reaching importance. It may herald the creation of a moderate majority that would be the 21st century counterpart to the old conservative coalition.
Lets see what happens.