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December 22, 2011

House Republicans' Christmas Present to Obama

What the payroll tax holiday fight is not about: it's not about whether the tax holiday is a good idea. It's not about whether the tax holiday is going to create jobs or reduce the deficit or supercharge the economy or take money from the mythical Social Security trust fund or whatever.

Even if those objections to the payroll tax holiday are absolutely true, the House GOP already gave up on all that. They passed the one-year tax holiday. They say they're for it. So they can't very well come back now and say that it's horrible and penny-ante and no solution to anything. They can't anymore. They were against it for much of the last year. But now they're very publicly for it.

So get that right out of the way. This fight is not about the poor, beleaguered House GOP standing on principle to block a bad tax holiday. They passed it. The House GOP isn't opposing a payroll tax holiday for January and February. What they're opposing is a payroll tax holiday that doesn't go beyond January and February.

Folks keep asking if there was a communication breakdown between Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell. Indeed, that was one of my first questions when House rank-and-file started their protest. I was told that there was no such breakdown.

McConnell asked Boehner if the Senate plan would be okay on Friday. Boehner said yes, either not knowing the feelings of his members or not caring. There was much rejoicing in the kingdom and the Senators all went home for the holidays. Everyone did a victory dance.

It's not a bad deal. It was gonna be a tax holiday extension or get blamed for a tax increase and the Senate GOP came away with a tax holiday extension with an accelerated pipeline determination. That was a win. That was a clear victory. Don't you remember how demoralized the Democrats were on Friday? That Sierra Club guy or whoever was cursing Obama.

Saturday morning the grumbling started from House members. They were pissed over two things: (1) the Senate version didn't include some features of their version, mostly involving paying for it, and (2) having to debate the President and Democrats again on this in the new year would make them look bad at the start of the election year because they are still getting tarred for having opposed the payroll tax holiday from the start last year.

Both objections are fine, I guess, as far as they go, but the solution to their objection was an utter politically folly: (1) stop the Senate bill by a procedural gimmick, and (2) have the debate against the President and the Democrats now that makes them look bad over the holidays and create the very real possibility that the President and the Democrats can continue to make them look bad in the new year instead of . . . uh, oh yeah, in January and February.

Instead of agreeing to a very real, if only partial, victory, they said: screw it and screw you too, taxpayers. And they did it while professing the insane belief that if they only hold out a little longer they'll get a better deal.

Honestly, I'm still waiting to hear what the House GOP thinks it's doing; how their version of the one-year extension is so necessary that they will forgo a two-month extension (which was going to become a full-year extension in February anyway) with a pipeline concession and instead settle for nothing at all. Because that's what they're going to get. Obama and the Democrats are going to laugh their way into the new year while the House GOP insists that it's standing on principle.

Now, I say they stopped the bill by a procedural gimmick because, you may have noticed, they didn't actually vote on the bill. They voted on a motion to send it to conference. That's because if they'd have voted on the bill, all the Democrats would have voted for it, plus 20 to 30 Republicans and it would have passed. Only it would have passed with most of the GOP on the wrong side, providing even more fodder for Presidential speeches. So they stalled for time, essentially, hoping that their stall would be perceived as merely an attempt to pass a better bill, rather than an attempt to derail the payroll tax holiday.

There is no "conservative principle" at work here. What you've really seen is a whole bunch of ninnies climb out on a limb together and then demand that the Senate GOP save them from their own stupidity. The Senate GOP, I'm sure I don't have to remind you, is in the minority. McConnell can't come riding to the rescue. For that they've got to go to Senator Reid. But why in the name of all that's holy would Reid do that? The GOP is just about to get blamed for increasing taxes on the middle class in an election year.

How stupid could these House members possibly be? They are throwing a last-second tanty and expecting the Democrats to negotiate in good faith after they've already left town. That has got to be the dumbest, most amateurish, utterly imbecilic political expectation in the year 2011.

I wrote yesterday on twitter that I predict that the House GOP spends another day insisting that the Senate must act before panicking and passing the Senate bill. I stand by that prediction.

We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory (once again) and now it's an utter disaster. Because the House GOP got tired of getting kicked in the balls about opposing a tax cut. Which, let's be clear, they did, repeatedly and publicly. They handed the President the bludgeon that he's used against us for a year. And when they finally decided to take it off the table, they really, really wanted it off the table.

So much so that they've turned us into the evil Republican caricature that populates so many of the President's speeches. All because they didn't want to have to fight for a new deal in February. A deal that the Democrats will need as much as we do. A deal for which we could have gotten a second major concession. But instead: bupkis.

If the President is reelected despite the economy, this is how it's gonna be. Not because he ran against whichever candidate we finally pick. But because he ran against the EVIL, TAX HIKING GOP as a group.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 07:39 AM

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