Political Animal


December 20, 2011 2:55 PM GOP scuttles bipartisan deal on middle-class tax cut

By Steve Benen

As expected, House Republicans this afternoon approved their counter-attack on the payroll tax break, scuttling the bipartisan compromise passed by the Senate, and vowing to take the debate to a conference committee. In the end, every House Democrat voted against the GOP scheme, and seven House Republicans broke ranks.

In other words, it wasn’t close.

So, now what happens? If you’re listening to the House GOP leadership (who supported the Senate deal before changing their minds) or the House GOP rank and file (who admit they don’t want to extend the payroll tax break at all), now is the time for “negotiations.” Democrats have already given in on an expedited decision on the Keystone XL pipeline and given in on demands that a surtax on millionaires and billionaires be dropped, but Republicans believe that should only be the starting point for talks in which Democrats go even further to make the right happier.

Dems, at least at this point, seem entirely unwilling to oblige. Take a look at President Obama’s remarks from the White House press briefing room this afternoon.

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If Republicans were waiting to hear Obama express an openness for additional compromise, they were disappointed. “The clock is ticking, time is running out, and if House Republicans refuse to vote for the Senate bill or even allow it to come up for a vote, taxes will go up in 11 days,” the president said. Senate Democratic leaders repeated the same message this morning.

In other words, the House GOP has two choices: raise middle-class taxes or pass the Senate’s bipartisan compromise.

What about the conference committee? Remember, that isn’t much of an option — the payroll break expires in 11 days, and the very idea that policymakers could craft a year-long deal in that time is rather ridiculous. It’d take a week just to go jump through the procedural hoops and put the conference committee together. A vote to send this to conference was a vote to kill the tax break, plain and simple.

At this point, if House Republicans are looking for an advantage in this fight, they don’t have any. In fact, Greg Sargent talked to a senior Senate Republican aide earlier today who conceded, “The House has zero leverage.”

The fact that Senate Republicans continue to blast House Republicans for their intransigence also further pushes the GOP into a corner.

If Boehner, Cantor, & Co. have a coherent game plan, they’re hiding it well.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • just bill on December 20, 2011 3:09 PM:

    this would appear to be the tea-bagger's waterloo. this time i think the democrats will stand firm, and the lamestream media happens to be a bit more forthright about reporting that the republicans are to blame. they're going to take it on the chin.

  • Michigander on December 20, 2011 3:15 PM:

    I too hope that the Democrats and the President will hold their ground and force the Republicans to show who they really represent. It sure isn't the 99%.

  • jeanne marie on December 20, 2011 3:15 PM:

    the lamestream media happens to be a bit more forthright about reporting that the republicans are to blame

    Except this morning on NPR it sounded like the two sides squabbling again trope. Me cussing at the radio again.

  • Ron Byers on December 20, 2011 3:17 PM:

    I sort of feel sorry for the Koch Bros and their damn pipeline--NOT.

  • j on December 20, 2011 3:19 PM:

    Oh what a shame, remember the tea baggers holding signs that said 'don't touch my medicare', well they have elected tea baggers who have killed the bill that would stop the intended cuts to doctor's reimbursements, which may make their medicare a little scarcer!

  • Creature_NYC on December 20, 2011 3:20 PM:

    But, listening to news updates during commercial breaks on the radio, all I'm hearing is that the GOP wants a year and the Dems want two months. With a clip of Boehner yelling something about Obama's leadership. That's it. No details. No nothing. So frustrating.

  • sduffys on December 20, 2011 3:22 PM:

    Will you just stop it. You're going to make Speaker Boehner cry.

  • Zorro on December 20, 2011 3:23 PM:

    It's strategery!


  • E L on December 20, 2011 3:23 PM:

    Breathlessly, I anticipate how the fumbling Democrats can turn this into a burning defeat for themselves.

  • Ron Byers on December 20, 2011 3:30 PM:

    The Democrats can turn this victory into a burning defeat by failing to get out there and tell their story. The Republicans are already trying to spin this. Where are the Democrats? Not just the President, but all of the Democrats starting with Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

  • walt on December 20, 2011 3:33 PM:

    Cheer up, fellow leftists. Drudge's lead headline was Obama's five point increase in his approval rating. Democrats overall easily outscore Republicans, too. And what did they reference? This very process.

    Sometimes not even the media can deflect the GOP's wretchedness. Pass the popcorn.

  • joe on December 20, 2011 3:37 PM:

    Kim Jong Benen. If any commenter disagrees, contradicts of undermines andy of dear leader Benens biased arguments...Benen simply eliminates those comments.

    Steve Benen...first amendment champion, journalist....bravo. Control freak!!!

  • T2 on December 20, 2011 3:40 PM:

    of course Boner is spinning this....that's all they can do. Naturally, Obama called for a one year extension at the outset.....but that was shot down by the House GOP. The two week thing was a stopgap until a one year plan could be worked out, with Dems giving even more up than they already did. Remember, to get the two week deal passed, they Gave In on the Keystone thing and dropped the very publicly favored Tax on Millionaires. The Dems Gave IN, but the GOP refused to accept a Tax Cut ! Complete nonsense, and now want us to believe that what the House wants is what Obama originally wanted - a one year deal. My god. And yes, the Media is cheerfully broadcasting the "GOP wants a year of tax cuts, Obama only wants two weeks"....sounds like they've out-flanked the Dems again with the aid of their Media. I'm getting a headache.

  • jjm on December 20, 2011 4:09 PM:

    I disagree about the media. Even USA today shows the big orange face of Boehner on this debacle, and other headlines read GOP kills tax cut...

    So...the people are wise to these guys.

  • ORgone on December 20, 2011 4:15 PM:

    I watched the disgusting discussion. HB3630 voted down by Tea Party. HB 501 passed at the sacrifice of public health nd welfare. Rep. Blackburn (R) of Tenn. 7th dist. stated "Washington takes and Washington wastes. This is a transition of government being lead in the house (applause)" Alan Nunnelee R-Miss. 1st Dist. wants to add proposition to drug test UE beneficiaries. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver D-MO. 5th Dist. states "I'm not gonna be here for Christmas..." Then added "THIS IS SICK! I'M ASHAMED! I"M ASHAMED that this is being done in public forum." So am I, Mr. Cleaver. SO AM I.

  • nightshift66 on December 20, 2011 4:48 PM:

    "If Boehner, Cantor, & Co. have a coherent game plan, they’re hiding it well."

    I disagree. Being incorrigible and taking hostages has worked for them for years now. The Dems always, ALWAYS cave in. Why should the House GOP not behave in this manner when doing so is so well rewarded?

  • Texas Aggie on December 20, 2011 5:17 PM:

    It seems that the MSM is all over the place on this one with some saying both sides are to blame and others blaming the republicans and others saying the republicans want a year while the Democrats only wanted two months. We need to put our own oar into the water and churn it up a bit to make sure that the full details are readily available.

    As for what happens when next year they try again, the Democrats should start over from square one with a surtax on the uberrich and cutting out the irrelevant stuff like the pipeline. I did kind of like the idea of requiring a decision in 60 days because there was no way that the requisite studies and comment period could be held in that time so the answer would have been to reject it. The only thing that should be in the next bill is how much to lower the tax for whom and how to pay for it. In order to establish a bargaining position, put the surtax high enough to pay for the thing twice with any extra money going to lower the deficit. Then negotiate down from there.

  • POed Lib on December 20, 2011 7:15 PM:

    @texas aggie: 100% agree. Dems need to begin with the tax on the rich pigs, and then move the goal posts back. We need an increase in the cap gains tax - it should be 40% (which would kill my mom as she is getting ready to sell a house and make pretty good money). Raise the cap gains tax up, up, up, up.

    40% or fight!!

  • Bonnie on December 20, 2011 10:10 PM:

    The Republicans waste more taxpayer money than any one by their dithering and capitulation to the one percent. We should dock their pay everytime they go back on their word. These people are NOT honorable people and do not deserve to be treated with any respect.