Circle December 20th on your calendar. That’s the day House Republicans will, unless sanity prevails, come to rue. In a stunning – even for them – turn of events, the House rejected a Senate bill that would’ve extended the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for two months while both parties worked out a longer deal next year. The bill passed the Senate with 89 votes, meaning it was a true bipartisan vote across party lines. In what has to be the dumbest play imaginable, the Speaker of the House allowed the Tea Party faction of his caucus to kill a bill that was paid for and had bilateral support. Indeed the bill was never given a straight up and down vote. Instead, by a vote of 229 to 193, the House passed a motion to “disagree” with the Senate bill.
Can you spell political suicide? I knew you could.
“This is not a game,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a briefing. Actually it is a game, a dangerous game; one that Republicans have been playing ever since they took the House in last year’s midterms. It's called Chicken and so far they've been winning. They even had a win here. The Senate bill forced the White House to ostensibly fold on the Keystone pipeline. Either Obama agrees to fast-track it, which would alienate his base yet again or he kills it, which would give the GOP badly needed ammunition in next year’s general election.
But that wasn’t good enough for House Republicans. They wanted yet more concessions and by rejecting this deal the plan was to lure the White House and Senate back into the negotiating room, while at the same time portraying themselves as being concerned about the “economic uncertainty” a temporary deal would elicit. The “official” reason cited for killing the bill was that House Republicans didn’t want to “kick the can” down the road when it came to the tax cut. In other words, the GOP thought the idea of a mere temporary extension not viable.
Really? That wasn’t what they said last summer during the debt-deal negotiations when they only wanted to increase the debt ceiling just enough so that the President and the country would have to go through the whole nauseating process again in March – during the middle of primary season no less. Apparently the only short-term extensions House Republicans approve of are the ones which favor their interests.
Well their plan has backfired and now, with two weeks left before both the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits are set to expire, House Republicans are left with a lot of egg on their face. Even their own colleagues in the Senate are ganging up on them. Scott Brown, who is in for the fight of his life as he runs for reelection next year, said, “It angers me that House Republicans would rather continue playing politics than find solutions. Their actions will hurt American families and be detrimental to our fragile economy. We are Americans first; now is not the time for drawing lines in the sand.”
Not bad for a RINO. And it isn’t just their fellow Republicans who are ticked off. This act is growing old fast on the voters as well. The latest polls by The Washington Post and CNN show that the President and Democrats are winning the battle on taxes. Obama’s approval rating now stands at 49%; the highest it’s been since the bin Laden killing. Conversely, the GOP is hovering near single digits.
Looks like Christmas is coming a few days early this year, courtesy of John Boehner. Thanks, we needed it.