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.
It’s a minor consolation, but at least an acknowledgement that Republican concerns about the impact a two-month payroll tax extension would have on businesses were legitimate. Coupled with the fact that the bill will force the Obama administration to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, it represents a small victory for the GOP. Though as plenty of conservative pundits and bloggers have pointed out, this is one that wasn’t necessarily worth the political cost.
The idea that congressional Republicans “caved” to Obama will play into the narrative that the president’s fortunes are improving. Some see the standoff as the reason why Obama’s approval ratings have had a modest bounce this week, though that explanation may not be entirely accurate. At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver thinks the poll boost is due to economic factors, not congressional gridlock:
The White House got a good headline number in this month’s unemployment report, with the unemployment rate dropping to 8.6 percent from 9 percent. Although the details of the report were not as strong, the findings have been bolstered by a steady decline in the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance, which are at their lowest levels since 2008. Meanwhile, housing starts are up, retail sales figures have been reasonably good, and various regional and national manufacturing indexes are generally coming in above expectations.
That does make a little more sense. With the holidays approaching, Americans are likely more focused on their families and vacation plans than the tedious payroll tax battle. The standoff didn’t reach the same level of media saturation that the debt-ceiling battle did during the summer, so the image damage may not be as bad for Republicans as it could have been otherwise.