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December 21, 2011

Top Headline Comments 12-21-11

Your must-read of the morning is today's WSJ editorial.

Here's a taste, but click over and read the whole frustrating thing:

GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he's spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.

House Republicans yesterday voted down the Senate's two-month extension of the two-percentage-point payroll tax holiday to 4.2% from 6.2%. They say the short extension makes no economic sense, but then neither does a one-year extension. No employer is going to hire a worker based on such a small and temporary decrease in employment costs, as this year's tax holiday has demonstrated. The entire exercise is political, but Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics.

You will recall that on Friday and Saturday we were doing a victory dance at having forced Democrats to accept an accelerated schedule for Keystone XL in exchange for a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, the Tea Party-led rank-and-file in the House immediately revolted.

After opposing the payroll tax holiday for the past year (and thereby handing Obama the bludgeon which he used to beat us for the year), the House GOP had finally, grudgingly agreed to a one-year extension just to get the issue off the table. Democrats, however, sensing an opportunity, took only two months instead. Anybody want to guess what the State of the Union will be about?

Now, of course, the House GOP members are emphasizing the industry reports that say implementing a two-month payroll tax holiday is impractical and disruptive. But let's be clear: House GOP jumped ugly before these reports came out. They're only using it as cover for their real beef, which is that Obama and the Democrats were mean to them and they're tired of it. And nobody, absolutely nobody, expects the payroll tax holiday to last only two more months, anyway. Congress was going to come back after the holidays and negotiate for the rest of the year.

Or, I should say, Congress was going to do that. I can't see why Democrats would sign on to that now, though. Democrats are on top of the world. The House GOP has given Democrats the absolute best Christmas present ever: the opportunity to blame Republicans for a tax increase at Christmas and then a second opportunity to blame us at the State of the Union. Does anybody think the Democrats in the Senate are eager to rush back to D.C. to change that?

House GOP members are protesting that they passed a full one-year extension and nobody's paying attention to that. In fairness, they also say their extension had better features than the Senate version. They're not blocking the tax cut, they screech. Except they did. The deal was struck; it was time to sign on the line. They balked. They could have had their longer extension two months from now---and possibly with more Keystone XL-sized concessions from Democrats. Instead the President is having his best week in months. Merry Christmas, Mr. President.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 07:02 AM

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