The payroll deal is is being billed as a House Republican defeat, and from a political optics standpoint it is. But the deal, which was passed by unanimous consent, actually isn’t bad for Republicans, especially considering some of the new language that was inserted:
The deal entails a new bill with language protecting small businesses from a measure in the Senate bill that creates temporary new caps on the wages that are subject to payroll tax relief, a Republican aide said. Sen. Harry Reid accepted the House Republicans’ proposal late this afternoon.
The bill will be passed by unanimous consent, which would not require all the members to return for a vote.
Now that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is publicly calling on House Speaker Boehner to just take the two-month payroll tax extension deal, House Republicans aren’t going to be able to hold out much longer:
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday urged House Republicans to pass a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, putting greater pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to act.
McConnell said House passage of a Senate-approved payroll tax relief package “locks in” legislative language requiring President Obama to speed up his timetable for approving the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
Watching House Republicans steer their party straight into a ditch over their failure to pass a version of the payroll tax cut has been like observing a car crash in slow motion. But along with the backbiting and second-guessing that have done little to enhance the reputation of the GOP House caucus or that of their leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor, the debacle also ought to illustrate to Republicans the political resiliency of President Obama and the fact that a GOP victory in the 2012 election is not a foregone conclusion.
That’s an important lesson. Many Republicans have approached the presidential nomination process as if any GOP candidate with a pulse could beat Obama. The ease with which the president has run rings around Boehner on the payroll tax cut not only should bring back disturbing memories of how Bill Clinton beat Newt Gingrich like a drum back in the 1990s but should also show what happens when ideological inflexibility on the part of the GOP allows the Democratic incumbent to play to the center as well as to the left. A few more debacles like this one and Obama won’t have to channel Harry Truman in order to portray his opponents as do-nothing losers.
On Fox News last night, Karl Rove outlined how the House GOP can backtrack on their payroll tax cut position, while still holding on to a bit of dignity:
“The only way to win it is to sit there and ruin their own Christmases and wait until the president heads off to Hawaii for his, and then lambast the Democrats for having abdicated their responsibility of passing a year-long tax cut,” Rove said.
“There’s only one way out of it,” he continued. “Is to stay in Washington, wait until President Obama gets on an airplane and heads for Hawaii, and then hold a session in the House, vote the two-month extension and use the opportunity to beat up on the now long absent Democrats and Harry Reid and the absent president and say look – this is going to not be good for the companies that have to write the paychecks.”
The two-month payroll tax extension the Senate approved and the House voted down today is by no means good policy. In fact, it’s a payroll-processing disaster. But if House Republicans were adamantly dead-set against the two-month extension, they could have made this clear at any point before the Senate vote on Saturday. Now that the Senate has left town for the holidays, demanding lawmakers return to negotiate a year-long payroll tax extension is a bit ridiculous:
Speaking minutes later at a press conference with dozens of GOP members behind him, House Speaker John Boehner said the House has already taken up the Senate bill, which only gives a $166 tax break to Americans, and opted instead for a bill that gives $1,000 to contributors to the Social Security fund.
“We rejected the Senate bill and we moved to go to conference,” he said. “We’ve done our work for the American people, now it’s up to the president and the Senate to do their work as well.”
All of President Obama’s denunciations of the “do-nothing Congress” and fiery appeals for lawmakers to “pass this jobs bill now” may be blowing up in his face. Yesterday, the House approved one of the key pieces of Obama’s jobs bill, but also inserted a provision that would greenlight the Keystone XL pipeline construction. Now it’s the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama (who vowed to veto the legislation if its passed) standing in the way of the jobs bill:
Defiant Republicans pushed legislation through the House Tuesday night that would keep alive Social Security payroll tax cuts for some 160 million Americans at President Barack Obama’s request — but also would require construction of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that has sparked a White House veto threat.