Good to see Republicans blow the political messaging for a change.

House Republican leader John Boehner says he would support extending tax cuts only for middle-class earners even though he considers it “bad policy” to exclude the highest-earning Americans from tax relief during a recession.

President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser said Sunday he is happy that Boehner, R-Ohio, isn’t willing to hold hostage an extension of tax cuts for those earning under $250,000 a year, or more than 97 percent of earners, to try to gain a continuation of breaks enjoyed by the wealthiest [...]

“I want to do something for all Americans who pay taxes,” Boehner said in an interview taped Saturday for “Face the Nation” on CBS. “If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I’ll vote for it. … If that’s what we can get done, but I think that’s bad policy. I don’t think that’s going to help our economy.”

The headline of this story is “Boehner backs tax cuts limited to middle class.” Every 20 minutes on NPR this morning, the headline was “Republican leader backs middle class tax cuts.” Whatever else Boehner said, that he doesn’t prefer the policy, or that he’d only vote for it as a last resort, is irrelevant. He basically caved to the Obama Administration position.

Now, it’s important to recognize a couple things. One, the Democrats had the procedural advantage here. Gridlock, the normal Republican way of doing business, would have resulted in the Bush tax cuts expiring completely. In addition, the tax cuts “for the middle class” are actually tax cuts on the first $250,000 of income. That would be for everyone, including the rich, who would actually see more benefits in real dollars (though not as a percentage of their income). So hijacking the policy would result in Boehner and the GOP voting against a $7,000 tax cut for the wealthy, too.

While that’s true, and this extension would run up the budget deficit significantly, the fact that wages haven’t expanded for the majority of workers in the last couple decades does make me not want to raise taxes on them during a recession to boot. The end result would make the tax code marginally more progressive, though more work needs to be done there.

This is an unusual unforced error for the Republican leadership. They may have had this in the back of their minds, but they just negotiated away the policy in public. And all this at the end of a week where conservative Democrats were backtracking like mad over to the Republican policy of wanting all the tax cuts extended. I don’t think that’s going to happen now. All the Democrats have to do is to call Boehner’s bluff.

…Sam Stein adds that Boehner admitted that only 3% of all small businesses at most would be affected by the increase in taxes at the high end of the scale.