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January 3, 2011
The heating up of the debt ceiling debate not only reveals fault lines within the Republican Party, but also suggests why Republican leaders were actually quite eager to get the tax package deal done during the 111th Congress rather than wait until the start of the 112th. Certainly, “no one wanted to see taxes go up on January 1st." However, Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell likely also recognized that passing a tax deal that protects tax breaks for the wealthy and adds to the deficit, would be a nonstarter for the incoming Tea Party freshman on whom their majority status (in the House) rests. Starting the 112th Congress on Wednesday with a vote that directly contradicted a group of freshmen Tea Party members who campaigned on the promise to reduce the deficit and reign in spending would have led to a January insurrection. Such an early fight would have emboldened the new, as yet unpredictable freshmen, giving them significant momentum leading up to the fights that will now take place in March when the existing continuing resolution on the budget expires on March 4th, and a decision on whether or not to raise the debt limit comes to a vote.