A surprising start to the tax cut debate in the House; the leadership had to pull the bill from the floor before voting began. By all indications, they did not have enough votes to move forward on the rule.

Before the debate on the tax bill starts, the House first needs to pass the rule on how the debate and votes will go, with a simple majority vote. Because Republicans will all vote against the rule set by Democratic leaders – Pelosi and Democratic leaders need to pass the rule just with Democratic votes.

With so many House Democrats unhappy with the tax bill, many don’t want to even bring it up, so leaders pulled the bill and are “whipping it” according to the Democratic leadership aide – counting to make sure they can even pass the rule.

They’d have to get all 218 votes for the rule by themselves? I don’t know how they’ll ever have the votes for that, though I’m sure they’re working it as we speak.

Prior to pulling the bill, fourteen lawmakers up and voted to adjourn before even getting to the tax cut, or resolving the funding of the government.

This doesn’t mean the bill itself is dead. House leadership is working on whipping the rule, and if that fails, they could come up with a new rule that includes enough amendments to satisfy frustrated progressive members. Or perhaps, they would have to go to John Boehner and see how many votes he could guarantee on the rule, though that would be futile.

I’d gather this is more like a temporary setback than a collapse of the tax cut deal, but we’ll keep monitoring it.

UPDATE: FYI, both RedState and Tea Party Nation are whipping against this bill. A delay doesn’t only raise the possibility for liberals to defect, or amend, the bill, it increases the pressure on Republicans, who probably just want to get this vote over with. Pelosi should go to them for the votes on the rule, let them live with it.

UPDATE II: Glenn Thrush has more, apparently the objection was to how the rule was structured. Basically, if the estate tax change won, there would be no vote on the underlying bill, which angered the liberal Dems. But this is silly, because the estate tax amendment was DESIGNED not to win. Thrush quotes Rob Andrews:

“We’re just figuring out a way to get a rule on the floor that will pass and I’m confident we will,” Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) said.

Leadership aides expect a vote today, perhaps with changes to the rule.