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December 19, 2011 1:45 PM Reid, for now, won’t play Boehner’s game

By Steve Benen

After the Senate approved a two-month extension of the payroll tax break, 89 to 10, the upper chamber not only assumed the House would be responsible, it also announced it’s done until January. This morning, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that won’t do — the Senate, he said, has to come back, get ready for more compromising, and make House Republicans happy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) issued a statement this afternoon suggesting Boehner has limited options.

“My House colleagues should be clear on what their vote means today. If Republicans vote down the bipartisan compromise negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders, and passed by 89 senators including 39 Republicans, their intransigence will mean that in ten days, 160 million middle class Americans will see a tax increase, over two million Americans will begin losing their unemployment benefits, and millions of senior citizens on Medicare could find it harder to receive treatment from physicians.

“Senator McConnell and I negotiated a compromise at Speaker Boehner’s request. I will not re-open negotiations until the House follows through and passes this agreement that was negotiated by Republican leaders, and supported by 90 percent of the Senate.

“This is a question of whether the House of Representatives will be able to fulfill the basic legislative function of passing an overwhelmingly bipartisan agreement, in order to protect the economic security of millions of middle-class Americans. Democratic and Republican leaders negotiated a compromise and Speaker Boehner should not walk away from it, putting middle-class families at risk of a thousand-dollar tax hike just because a few angry Tea Partiers raised their voices to the Speaker.”

As for Boehner’s demand that policymakers work on a year-long extension, instead of a two-month extension, Reid said Democrats would continue to work on this goal, just as soon as the House approves this short-term measure and gives policymakers time to work on a new agreement. Another Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said something similar on MSNBC earlier.

Senate Dems, in other words, are trying to, in effect, “jam” House Republicans — they passed a bill and left, giving the lower chamber a choice between passing the Senate bill or raising taxes on 160 million Americans.

Complicating matters a bit, some Senate Republicans are siding with Dems on this, telling House Republicans to cut the nonsense and pass the extension.

The next move will probably be a House vote on the Senate bill, which Republican leaders expect to fail. Indeed, that’s largely the point — they’re bringing it to the floor so GOP members can kill it and send a message to the Senate that the bipartisan compromise isn’t far enough to the right.

I haven’t seen any head counts on this, but it’s worth watching to see if the Senate bill sneaks past the finish line anyway. Greg Sargent reports that the House Democratic leadership has sent a letter to its members, “urging them to vote for the measure in ‘overwhelming’ numbers.”

This matters. Remember, there are 192 Democrats in the House, and the bill needs 218 votes to go to the White House to be signed. If all, or nearly all, Dems support the deal struck in the Senate, it would only need 26 or so House Republicans to break ranks.

The alternative is House Republicans killing a bipartisan compromise on a middle-class tax cut, which just passed the Senate 89 to 10, six days before Christmas. Are there 26 GOP lawmakers in the House willing to do the responsible thing? If I had to guess, I’d say no, but if they appear, this mess could be resolved fairly quickly.

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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  • c u n d gulag on December 19, 2011 1:51 PM:

    "Are there 26 GOP lawmakers in the House willing to do the responsible thing?"

    NO!
    This has been today's edition of SATSQ.

    I mean, how can there be?
    There aren't 26 GOP members in the whole f*cking country who would do "a" responsible thing, let alone do "the" responsible thing in the House.

  • MattF on December 19, 2011 1:53 PM:

    It's a close call-- I'd like to see Pelosi win this one and I'd like to see the payroll tax break extended at least for a short time, but I also don't want to see Boehner et. al. wriggle off the hook on which they've impaled themselves.

    Just as long as the Dems manage to make clear who's to blame, for once, please.

  • Josef K on December 19, 2011 1:59 PM:

    This is a question of whether the House of Representatives will be able to fulfill the basic legislative function of passing an overwhelmingly bipartisan agreement, in order to protect the economic security of millions of middle-class Americans.

    I'd like to know if Senator Reid managed to say this with a straight face, 'cause I sure as hell can't.

  • kevo on December 19, 2011 2:21 PM:

    Scumbuckets of the Nation those Tea Partyers are!
    Governance and leadership are challenges by far,
    And the Tea partying sorts in Congress are never right.
    Their sorry stubborn asses are our democracy's blight

    Hey Boehner and associates, WTF you thinking?
    Does the middle class frighten you?
    Are working class people merely for the trifling?
    Would it surprise you if we noted how much you blew?

    Hey Republicans and the 1%
    You fucking with fairness
    is surely a bad bet!
    It may leave you hairless!

    Finally for those not moved by the circumstance
    What will it take to get Republicans to be relevant
    to our needs of solution making and regulating
    those corporate bastards' mindless Ponzi regurgitating?

    Now back to the Republican hacks under Boehner
    who seem to have no smidgen of honor.
    They Party with Tea until they eventually stumble.
    They know nothing about being legislatively humble!

    So here we go again with the hostage taking
    by idiots who can't pass a poli sci 101 class.
    Still, they were elected, though very much lacking,
    and in 2012 we'll vote them out on their ass! -Kevo

  • hells littlest angel on December 19, 2011 2:23 PM:

    Boehner's holiday tears will be extra boozy this year, I think.

  • Michigander on December 19, 2011 2:25 PM:

    Stand Firm, Harry! Don't give in. Don't let the Republicans weasel out of this one.

  • Quaker in a Basement on December 19, 2011 2:29 PM:

    Remember, there are 192 Democrats in the House, and the bill needs 218 votes to go to the White House to be signed. If all, or nearly all, Dems support the deal struck in the Senate, it would only need 26 or so House Republicans to break ranks.

    True, but only if the bill actually comes to the floor for a vote. That's a pretty big "if."

  • Cleansweep on December 19, 2011 2:30 PM:

    So what will it cost taxpayers to bring Senate members and their staff back to Washington??? I do believe Tea
    party house members are on their way back to the private sector in 2012

  • stevio on December 19, 2011 2:54 PM:

    Ried will cave, the Dems always do. Always.

  • T2 on December 19, 2011 2:56 PM:

    this whole thing sucks. But it's kinda fun to watch Boner and his TeaBaggers in action.

  • DCSusie on December 19, 2011 2:58 PM:

    Sure does sound like Harry has checked his cojones out of the closet for this one. Ibsuspect he's had about enough of Boehner's weak-ass double crosses. Hopefully Obambi won't stab him in the back by deciding to call on the Senatte to come back.

  • June on December 19, 2011 2:59 PM:

    I loved this jab from Reid:

    "Democratic and Republican leaders negotiated a compromise and Speaker Boehner should not walk away from it, putting middle-class families at risk of a thousand-dollar tax hike just because a few angry Tea Partiers raised their voices to the Speaker."

  • QuestionEverything on December 19, 2011 3:06 PM:

    Republicans act with IMPUNITY. Period.

    You don't do what Republicans do and do as often and continue to do, unless you have an uninformed public who are uninformed because of a MSM (and Fox) that fails to do their job and is unwilling to do their basic job of informing.

    Republicans will continue to do things that Dems would never get away with doing, with little consequence in 2012 or any election. Bill Maher says that Americans are stupid and the fact that Republicans are voted in and held to no accountability, year in and year out (with minor exception) only reinforces and gives credence to Maher's notion.

    Republicans do it because they can and do get away with it. If you apply 'Dem' logic to the issue, you'd think that Dems will take over the House again in huge numbers, and more of the Senate, and Obama wins in a landslide.

    I believe there's reason for it to happen but I don't believe that will happen. Way too many people are too stupid to do what's right for America. I don't know how you could get through these people even with the facts in front of them, they refuse to see or believe it.

  • bigtuna on December 19, 2011 3:29 PM:

    Boner's in a pickle. Are they whipping this vote? IF yes, and it loses, they are hewing to the yahoo line, and risk being the ones held responsible for raising our taxes Jan 1. [I like the 89-10 vote, btw]. Dems need to stay united, however ....

    If no, and 26 + defecations occur [mis spelled on intent] - then this is essentially a vote of no confidence in the speaker, right?

    And, how many R-held districts are on thin margins, or in a redistricting issue, weak incumbent, open seat, etc? While some of the posters are right - the common person finds this mind numbing, the ad writes itself:

    " In December, 2011, Rep. Blog had the simple choice: Vote to extend a tax cut for you, or vote to raise your taxes. She voted to raise your taxes. It is that simple"

    - paid for by the unlimited spending for politicans who care ....

  • bigtuna on December 19, 2011 3:37 PM:

    TPM has this interesting analysis ...


    "The X-factor here is the White House. What will they do if they sense that the payroll cut, and UI and the doc fix are all about to expire? In the last days of the debt limit fight, the Obama administration faced a similar dilemma. Reid had a plan in the Senate, Boehner had a plan in the House. But just as now, House Republicans rebelled, and left Boehner hanging ó seemingly destroying his ability to negotiate. Suddenly Reid had the only viable legislation in the Congress and with the hours ticking down, it looked like Republicans would have to cave and pass it. Thatís when the White House stepped in and cut a deal with Republicans, effectively bailing Boehner out. Thatís the deal that ultimately passed. If the White House spooks out about the prospect of all these provisions lapsing, administration officials could step in once again."


    please please please WH - don't cave ...

  • AG on December 19, 2011 4:13 PM:

    I cannot for the life of me figure out why the republicans dont want the two month extension. I mean, I figured the whole idea was to make sure president obama didnt cancel keystone xl after an expedited review by making the full tax holiday contingent on approving the they could even say that keystone xl would create more jobs that the tax holiday or some hyperbolic conservative garbage like that.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on December 19, 2011 4:22 PM:

    Give 'em heck

    , Harry!!!!!
  • Rick B on December 19, 2011 4:51 PM:

    @AG, the Republicans don't want anything to pass into law. They want the tax reduction to expire, but they want the Democrats to be blamed for it.

    It's the terrorist strategy of making a nation ungovernable and then offering the terrorists themselves as the only government the people can depend on.

  • MichiganMoon on December 20, 2011 7:54 AM:

    Yes, let's defund social security by hundreds of billions of dollars so families can have a few extra bucks...SS gave out more than it brought in during 2010 and 2011. Therefore, making it weaker for the Republicans to attack in 10 years or less. Great idea Obama!

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