Technically, the GOP and Obama can get a Fiscal Cliff deal without the Republicans agreeing to raise taxes.
As Grover Norquist signaled last week, when he gave approval for Republicans to accept Boehner’s “Plan B” (which would let taxes revert to Clinton-era levels for those with incomes of $1 million or more), it’s OK to accept a deal if taxes rise passively.
That being said, popularly, letting taxes rise isn’t that much different than voting for taxes to rise, and so GOP opposition to anything that reeks of a compromise on the tax issue remains stiff.
In the NYT Binyanim Appelbaum has a great history of the GOP’s anti-tax hard line.
There are many inspirants for it (Grover Norquist, Art Laffer, etc.) but the key event was the tax increase of 1990, which violated George Bush’s “read my lips” pledge, and which was seen as costing him the Presidency in 1992.
On a Saturday afternoon in October 1990, Senator Pete V. Domenici turned from a conversation on the Senate floor, caught the eye of a clerk by raising his right hand and voted in favour of a huge and contentious bill to reduce federal deficits. Then he put his hand back into his pocket and returned to the conversation.
It was the end of an era, although no one knew it then. It was the last time any Congressional Republican has voted for higher income taxes.
On this C-Span clip, about a minute in, you can hear Domenici’s name being called in the Roll Call.