“The vote you’re going to have is how many Americans you protect from having their taxes go up,” Isakson said. “Everybody’s taxes are going up at 12:01 tonight. Everybody. Yours, mine, everybody, OK? So whatever vote we have will be how many of those people we end up protecting from having their taxes go up. It won’t be the fact that we’re raising somebody’s taxes because they’re all going up if we don’t do anything.”
While he anticipates Congress reaching a deal by the time the New Year begins at midnight, he stopped short of predicting the outcome of the vote without knowing all the moving parts of the deal.
“I don’t know how you look if you have the chance to keep the rates from going up on the vast majority of the American people, if you have the chance to keep from going off the financial cliff and causing the financial ramifications that come from that, unless there’s a poison pill, I can’t see why you would not do that,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) blames tax hike battle on the White House.
“The president’s overriding desire is to raise taxes and not create economic vitality,” he said. “Look, the president’s tax increase that he supports right now will pay for the federal government’s functioning for eight days. Eight days. Not eight weeks, not eight months, not eight years. Eight days.”
President Obama is engaged in political gamesmanship, not fiscal policy, Price said.
“All it does is allow the president to check a political box, and that is that he is so incredibly wedded to tax increases,” Price said. “The president is an individual who appears by all of his actions to desire bigger government, more control by Washington, a greater amount of money taken out of your pocket and everybody else’s pocket in this country so that Washington has more of your resources and can decide how to spend your money. The president believes that Washington can spend your money more wisely than you can spend it. We simply disagree with that.”
Last week on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Isakson said the House should have voted in favor of House Speaker John Boehner’s bill. Isakson explained that comment on Monday.
“If you and I were playing gin, and all of a sudden you just refused to play your hand, the game would be over or you’d have to start over, and I think John Boehner did a brilliant thing by pulling his bill because by pulling his bill nobody in the House ended up having a recorded vote on that bill,” Isakson said. “That’s going to bear well for us if we get a deal because then they aren’t limited by whatever bill they voted for in terms of the option that John proposed. But what I was talking about in the context of that interview -- and you have to take things in context and in time -- was why negotiations were stalled, and there was nothing to negotiate on. And when that bill got pulled, we kind of went back to ground zero.”
Price explained why he would not have voted for Boehner’s proposal.
“The plan that he described a week ago was one that would have increased taxes on those whose income was greater than $1 million, and that includes a significant portion of the small businesses in this country because they file through the individual rates, the marginal rates. That would, I believe, have been harmful to job creation,” Price said. “That is a non-starter for me.”
Isakson said there is enough blame to go around for everybody.
“Remember it was August of last year that we set the timetable for this to all get in motion, and we were supposed to cut $1.2 trillion,” he said.
But Congress, he said, failed to make the cuts, which started the sequestration process.
“We were supposed to do something on reducing debt and deficit, and we did nothing, and then the president started running on raising taxes and that skewed the whole debate to the revenue side," Isakson said. "So we’ve kind of been in this political gymnastics and finger pointing for 18 months, some of which has been healthy, but most of which has been more theater than it has been results. And we’re at a point in time where actions or inactions have consequences.”
While very fragile, the U.S. economy is still better than most of the world’s economies, he added.
“If our economy begins to tank because of a lack of anticipation not knowing what taxes are going to be, not knowing what policy is going to be, not knowing whether the debt is going to go up, then people are going to retrench in their spending, which is going to retract the economy, consumer confidence is going to go down, the markets will correct, and we’ll just be all back in that downward spiral and malaise which we were in post 2008, so I’ve said this before, making any deal doesn’t make sense, but making a deal that makes sense -- makes sense,” Isakson said.
Georgia’s junior senator said it’s been a frustrating month.
“We’ve been up here. I was home for Christmas Day and the day before, and I flew home Saturday to give some personal stuff for my wife,” he said. “I spent my 68th birthday (Dec. 28) on the floor of the Senate and missed my birthday party at home, so it’s been a marvelous month. I mean, I’m not complaining. I volunteered for the job, don’t get me wrong, but this has been a frustrating way to do the job.”
Price remarked how unusual it was to be spending New Year's Eve in Washington.
“Somebody told me yesterday that this was the, I think, the second time in 50 years that Congress had been in session on New Year’s Eve Day,” Price said.