You could see this one coming. John Boehner empowered Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid to come up with a compromise on the payroll tax cut and other expiring measures which could break a filibuster in the Senate. They couldn’t get the full-year measure done, so they agreed to a two-month extension with a pay-for and an acceleration of the Keystone XL decision. So now Boehner had to go back to his caucus, with a deal he didn’t personally negotiate, to sell it to them. That sell didn’t go over well, with many House conservatives, including the other members of the leadership team, criticizing the deal. And Boehner then went on Meet the Press and put the entire bill in jeopardy:
BOEHNER: Well, it’s pretty clear that I, and our members, oppose the senate bill. … How can you do tax policy for two months? So, we really do believe it’s time for the Senate to work with the House, to complete our business for the year. We’ve got two weeks to get this done. let’s do it the right way.
HOST: So your suggesting start over, make this a one year extension. Should the Senate start from scratch?
BOEHNER: No, what I’m suggesting is this. The House has passed its bill, the Senate has passed its bill. Under the Constitution, when we have these disagreements, there could be a formal conference between both chambers to resolve the differences.
A conference isn’t going to happen. The Senate has adjourned for the year, and they consider the matter closed. With all the worry about the House jamming the Senate, it ended up with the Senate jamming the House.
I’m having a hard time understanding the real nature of the opposition among the House Republican caucus. Based on the reports of that conference call, where Boehner actually tried to sell the deal, the sticking point appears to be the limited nature of the two-month compromise, which kicks the can down the road and forces Congress to return to the issue in February. I don’t know why that’s such a big deal to the House GOP. Maybe they’re just advancing their “uncertainty” argument. Perhaps they see how this debate has taken a toll on them politically and they’d rather just bury it over Christmastime. Maybe they don’t want to get lectured about it by President Obama during the State of the Union address. Maybe they just didn’t get all that they wanted; the two-month compromise also leaves out almost all of the poison pills that the House GOP included in their payroll tax/UI/doc fix bill.
But of course, if Boehner’s caucus has a problem with what the Senate came up with, they ought to blame John Boehner. He’s the one who let McConnell and Reid decide the matter, depriving the House of any input. He took a laissez-faire attitude, and now his caucus has decided, ironically, that they don’t like laissez-faire solutions.
The President, incidentally, has counter-attacked. Two government funding measures passed Congress in the past few days, one a long-term omnibus to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, and one a one-week continuing resolution. The President signed the one-week measure, holding off on the long-term bill until the payroll tax situation is resolved.
Even if the majority of Republicans opposed the Senate bill, it could still pass with overwhelming Democratic support and just a handful of GOP members. But that assumes that Boehner will allow it to the floor. No date has yet been scheduled to take up the Senate measure, even though the expectation was for a quick passage on Monday.