The Republican plan continues to be to try and jam the Senate with the House-passed payroll tax cut legislation, by going home for the rest of the year and forcing Senate Democrats to decide whether everyone gets a tax increase next year. The House can only do that if they finish the bill funding the government, as that funding expires Friday. So that’s the underlying situation behind today’s tactics on the Senate floor. Harry Reid tried to bring up the House-passed bill through unanimous consent, so the Senate could quickly dispense with it. Mitch McConnell blocked him and tried to sequence the votes differently, with the omnibus spending bill to fund the government coming first. Reid blocked that. Reid offered to fund the government with a stopgap bill while negotiations continued on the payroll tax cut legislation; McConnell blocked that.
So that whole escapade got us nowhere and showed merely that the possibility for a government shutdown has grown. If there are talks between the parties on this, they are a well-guarded secret.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Corker condemned his own party on their tactics with the payroll tax cut, although this was more geared to the very notion of passing a tax cut at all:
Speaking Wednesday on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Corker was asked if the payroll tax cut extension was passed to help the economy, or because they’ve been put “into this corner of now obstructing a tax cut” and “just to be in the way of the president.”
“I think it’s probably a little of both if you want to know the truth,” Corker said. “You know the payroll tax holiday is terrible public policy and we’ll see the effect that it has on Social Security over time.”
The senator said one of the good things about the House-passed legislation is that it’s unlikely that the payroll tax cut will be renewed again next year.
“One of the things that is being put into the bill is that it takes a super-majority to extend it again,” Corker said. “So at least this holiday hopefully will not end with another passage next year, which continues to be huge deficit spending, and really, you know, changing the whole context which Social Security is set up.”
He’s talking about a provision at the end of the bill, where the House tries to dictate the rules of the Senate and force a rules change, creating a 67-vote hurdle to extend the payroll tax cut again. This is out of order with standard practice because it puts into legislation a rules change that needs a 2/3 vote for cloture. If any Senator objected to it, that 2/3 hurdle to codify this into law would be established, and the whole measure would probably get excised from the bill. So Corker’s favorite part of the proposal is an mid-session rule change that avoids the usual 2/3 threshold.
The final note here is that the parties continue to squabble, with just days until a government shutdown.