Chris Bowers had the best look at where things stand with the tax cut deal. Though the White House called it a “framework” previously, accounting for the possibility for some changes, they brought the hammer down yesterday. Republicans are saying that the deal is non-negotiable, and Joe Biden basically joined them in that assessment. He said, “This is the deal, take it or leave it,” according to Henry Waxman (D-CA).
“It’s not going to be changed,” insisted Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl yesterday afternoon, as aides were finalizing legislative language. “The deal is resolved, so there’s not a question of it being changed. But both leaders will work together to insure that it has the votes to pass.” [...]
Moments after Kyl briefed reporters, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, who is broadly supportive of the deal, said he’d like to see changes to the package, particularly to the estate tax provision. Confronted with Kyl’s edict, Conrad laughed, “he’s not a dictator.”
But later in the day, on the other side of the Capitol, Vice President Joe Biden faced angry House Democrats and told them, much to their dissatisfaction, that the fix is in.
Biden got an earful at a House caucus meeting, but while Chris Van Hollen claimed there are “serious questions” whether the deal could pass in its current form, I’m not seeing it. In the Senate, you already have public support from Webb, Conrad, Lincoln, Kerry, Akaka, Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Baucus, Carper and Manchin, and many of the “no” votes on the Democratic side have left the door open for support. Bernie Sanders certainly has a clutch of Democrats opposed, but it’s unclear how many. Among Republicans, only DeMint and Voinovich are totally opposed, so I think you’d need more Republican opposition to have a shot at blocking it.
In the House, Peter Welch’s letter opposing the bill is up to 34 members, and I think there’s a lot more opposition to that in the caucus, but candidly, members are predicting the bill will pass. Again, it depends on whether Republicans break against it, because the votes are there for a Blue Dog-GOP coalition. The House really wants to change the provisions on the estate tax, which reduce the level to the lowest in modern history. Other pockets of Democratic lawmakers want inclusion of the Build America Bonds program and tax extenders for renewable energy projects. But again, Biden was pretty firm that the deal isn’t negotiable anymore. Only Mitch McConnell got to negotiate.