I haven’t seen Republicans mismanage the public relations of one of their schemes this badly in quite a while. Check out this scene on the House floor from today. During a pro forma session designed to block recess appointments (streams crossing), Steny Hoyer asks for unanimous consent to bring up the Senate two-month stopgap on the payroll tax, unemployment insurance and the doc fix. Instead of just objecting to UC, the presiding officer, in this case Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), just ignores Hoyer and gavels down the session, walking away. This allows Hoyer to grandstand:
“You’re walking out, you’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers, the unemployed and … those who will be seeking medical assistance from their doctors.
“We regret, Mr. Speaker, that you have walked off the platform without addressing the issue of critical importance to this country,” he added.
Hoyer then yielded to House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who began to speak to a chamber that had no presiding officer. C-SPAN’s coverage of the floor ended moments after Van Hollen started speaking.
This was at the direction of the House leadership. C-SPAN does not actually control the cameras on the House floor. The House Recording Studio made the decision to pull the plug, but not before capturing Hoyer calling out Republicans for a full minute.
The House has another pro forma session on Friday. This will just continue to happen throughout the holiday break, much to the embarrassment of the GOP.
Meanwhile, Harry Reid, in a letter to John Boehner, reiterated that he will not agree to the House’s demands until the two-month stopgap gets passed. So far, Reid will not bail out the House GOP. This is the entire letter:
Our respective chambers have been seeking for weeks to negotiate a year-long extension of the payroll tax cut for middle-class families, as well as unemployment benefits and Medicare payments for physicians. You and I agree that this should be our goal. But as these weeks have made clear, there remain differences between our parties over how to fund and implement these programs that will take longer then a few days to reconcile.
Recognizing this reality, eighty-nine Republican and Democratic senators came together to agree to a short-term extension of these programs. As you requested when we met last Wednesday, Senator McConnell and I worked together to find this common ground. Once the House of Representatives acts on this immediate extension, we will be able to sit down and complete negotiations on a longer extension. But because we have a responsibility to assure middle-class families that their taxes will not go up while we work out our differences, we must pass this immediate extension first.
As the Senate vote made clear, there is no reason for this to be a partisan issue. I am fully confident that we can work out our differences and find common ground on a year-long extension. But in the meantime, families should not have to worry that they will wake up to a tax increase on January 1, 2012.
To provide middle-class families the certainty they deserve, I urge you to reconvene the House to act on the Senate’s bipartisan compromise as soon as possible.
For his part, the President spoke both to Boehner and Reid today. And according to the readout, he told Boehner that “the short-term bipartisan compromise passed by almost the entire Senate is the only option to ensure that middle class families aren’t hit with a tax hike in 10 days and gives both sides the time needed to work out a full year solution.” So he’s siding with the Senate as well. For good measure, Obama lauded Reid for coming up with a broad compromise.
This is going to end in disaster for the GOP. After that point, we can step back and look at the final result as it is; we’re not talking about progressive policy here by any stretch. But Republicans face a political hit that could resonate for some time.