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Georgia GOP climate makes cliff compromise difficult

3:42 PM, Jan 1, 2013   |    comments
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Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia)

MARIETTA, GA -- There were several bags of groceries piled in front of the Marietta office of Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA).

Nearby, there were political activists angry about the so-called fiscal cliff. They bought the groceries, to use them to try to demonstrate how much the absence of a budget deal will cost average Georgians.

"This is food off our tables if the middle class tax cuts aren't extended. This is real," said Sam Gonzales, who says he is a graduate student married to a nurse, expecting their first child.

"We have a divided government. There needs to be compromise," said Jeff DiSantis.

Compromise. The demand for it has driven the debate surrounding the fiscal cliff.

"It's time to come to a reasonable compromise," DiSantis said.

But movement conservatives beg to differ.

"I think (compromise is) a terrible thing," said Joe McCutchen, speaking of the fiscal cliff talks in Washington. McCutchen is a longtime conservative activist who says he'd rather have automatic tax increases than a compromise by Republicans.

"When you capitulate to the Democrats, you don't get any spending cuts. All you get is tax increases," McCutchen said.

"We have a spending problem in Washington. We do not have a revenue problem. And any Republican who votes for a tax increase, it makes me angry," McCutchen said.

It goes to the heart of the impasse. Republican congressional leaders are caught between a desire to prevent automatic tax hikes, and the anger of movement conservatives who drive Republican politics. McCutchen has been part of a movement that he hopes will lead to the replacement of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who he blames for merely talking about tax increases with President Obama.

"I've watched the Republicans capitulate to the Democrats for fifty years, and I'm sick and tired of it!," said McCutchen, who calls himself a mainstream Georgia Republican. "Any Republican who capitulates to the Democrats, I don't plan to vote for."

Nationally, Republicans have already shown a willingness to punish members of their own party in Congress who compromise too much with Democrats by unseating them in Republican primaries. In Georgia, some conservatives are already angry with compromise talk by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia). He faces re-election in 2014.

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