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Boxing In the Democrats

It wasn’t a good day for House Minority Leader John Boehner. As the Wall Street Journal editors explain, he smudged up a clear and effective distinction between the parties on the Bush tax cuts, leaving his members dazed:

Republicans scrambled yesterday to regain their footing, with House Minority Whip Eric Cantor returning to the winning GOP argument that any tax hike on “working families, small-business people and investors” is a “non-starter.” We hope so. As for Mr. Boehner, this stumble on the easy issue of taxation in the best GOP year since 1994 makes us wonder if he’s ready for prime time.

Fortunately, House Republicans didn’t compound their leader’s error. To the contrary, they moved swiftly to box in their Democratic colleagues in advance of the midterm elections. Roll Call reports:

The top Republicans on three House committees on Monday called on their Democratic counterparts to clear committee agendas immediately and begin work on a bipartisan bill to create jobs by freezing spending and cutting taxes.

In their letter to the chairmen of the Ways and Means, Appropriations and Budget Committees, Ranking Members Dave Camp (Mich.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) proposed the House work to enact a two–point plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years and freeze non-security discretionary spending at 2008 levels.

It’s smart politics — which Democrats are brave enough to vote no or to stall? — and smart policy. What’s interesting is that both Camp and Ryan, two of the sharpest reform-minded congressmen in the Republican caucus (both of whom made a good impression at the health-care summit), are leading the charge. They have figured out that this is no time to be a squish. Elections, after all, are about choices, and this move presents voters with a stark one.


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