Opinion

Legislative Lowdown: Presidential debates may determine taxpayer’s fate

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Brian Darling
Senior Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
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      Brian Darling

      Brian Darling is a senior fellow for government studies at The Heritage Foundation. He writes a weekly “Legislative Lowdown” column for The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianHDarling.

Presidential debates seldom turn an election, yet this year may be different. The race between Republican Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama is close by any measure. Neither side’s voting bloc seems solidified .We may see some swings in the numbers running up to Election Day if either of these candidates has a “Joe Biden moment.”

Obama has been producing quite a few gaffes lately. His insulting admonition to entrepreneurs (“You didn’t build that”) is probably the most notable. More recently he called himself “eye candy” on “The View.” And when an interviewer asked whether Egypt is an ally or an enemy, he said “neither.”

The Obama administration is providing a billion dollars a year in aid to Egypt, and the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government is being treated by the administration as an ally. The State Department had to correct the commander-in-chief for his incoherent statement.

Romney has uttered some gaffes of his own. He said, for example, that “he likes being able to fire people.” In that case, he’d hate being president; it’s virtually impossible to fire government employees. Also, Romney said that he wasn’t “concerned about the very poor,” because of America’s bountiful welfare state — a factually correct statement that came off as insensitive. Of course the Obama-cheerleading section of the mainstream media amplifies Romney’s misstatements and explains away their beloved president’s verbal mistakes.

These debates will no doubt be heavy on policy, sprinkled with a side of class warfare and instances of Obama blaming others for his personal failings. A solution for a pending set of defense cuts and expiring tax rate reductions may be determined by the American people’s perception of who won the presidential and vice presidential debates.

President Mitt Romney will lead to change

If Romney cleans up at the debates and wins the presidency, expect Republicans to push for a busy lame-duck session to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Republicans will want to extend existing tax cuts to clear the deck for comprehensive tax reform next year. It will be difficult for a President Romney to implement his own tax cuts and tax code simplifications if the extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts is left undone.

Also, expect a push to cut spending in an effort to restore cuts to defense spending scheduled as a result of last year’s debt-limit deal. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have been touring the nation to advocate for more defense spending. Unfortunately, these senators are open to tax hikes to pay for the removal of the defense sequester from current law. Republicans will try to undo defense cuts in a lame duck if Romney wins the presidency, but conservatives will stop any attempt to use tax hikes to pay for it.

An outgoing President Obama won’t make it easy for an incoming Romney administration. Expect a bitter Democratic Party to consider canceling the lame duck to punt all the difficult decisions to a new Congress in January 2013.