Legislative Lowdown: Presidential debates may determine taxpayer’s fate

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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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.

Second term for President Obama will be more of the same

If Obama cleans Romney’s clock in the debates, the administration will consider that a rubber stamp by the American people for higher taxes, more spending and bigger government. Expect the lame-duck session to be a train wreck for conservatives. Obama will allow tax cuts to expire and defense cuts to kick in.

Expect the Obama administration to make a last-minute push for President Obama’s bill to spend more of your tax dollars on so-called “infrastructure.” Expect despondent Republicans to not put up much of a fight, even though they are expected to retain control of the House. Furthermore, even with an Obama victory, Republicans are expected to pick up a seat or two in the Senate. Expect a second term for Obama to be loaded with blame and complaints if Republicans don’t adopt his radical left-wing agenda.

One week after the election, either Romney or Obama will flex some muscle to clear the decks for 2013. The debates may determine whether our defense is gutted, other spending is hiked and taxes go up.

President Obama’s illegal recess appointments

Senate Republicans have filed a lawsuit in federal court to void President Obama’s recess appointments of three members of the National Labor Relations Board and the chairman of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They argue that the Senate was in session when the president made the appointments, violating the Constitution.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).