Congress has mostly left Washington, with no resolution on a host of year-end measures that, if allowed to expire, will result in an average $1,000 tax increase, the expiration of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, and a 27% rate cut in Medicare reimbursement. House Republicans left behind eight “conferees” for a conference on the payroll tax/UI/doc fix bill, and plan to hold showy events where they sit in a room alone, but Democrats have adamantly refused to reopen negotiations until the short-term bill passes. Meanwhile, half of the conferees opposed the payroll tax cut extension as recently as a few weeks ago.
So far, nobody’s buying the GOP spin. That can be seen by the fact that none other than the Wall Street Journal editorial page is going after Republicans for their conduct on this fiasco:
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.
The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play [...]
After a year of the tea party House, Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have had to make no major policy concessions beyond extending the Bush tax rates for two years. Mr. Obama is in a stronger re-election position today than he was a year ago, and the chances of Mr. McConnell becoming Majority Leader in 2013 are declining.
At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly.”
Individual Republicans are bailing as well. Bob Corker counseled the House GOP to pass the extension and “move on.” John McCain said the issue “is harming the Republican Party.” Right now, this is a nightmare scenario for the GOP.
Dave Weigel argues that won’t last. The other side always blinks, and with the payroll tax holiday nearing expiration, they will again.
Republicans have a shifting set of demands. They want the “reforms” to unemployment benefits, including allowing the states to force drug testing and the completion of a GED. This would turn a program that workers pay for in their weekly paychecks into something like welfare. They want to roll back that EPA boiler rule, one of the major features of the original House bill. I heard David Dreier straight-up lie on NPR’s All Things Considered last night, claiming that the House bill would have forced the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, rather than forcing the President to make an expedited decision.
House Republicans simply think they can get a better deal, and as has been the case all year, they are willing to take the pressure in the belief that Democrats will cave and give them more than what they get out of the short-term extension. So far, Democrats are not biting, allowing Republicans to suffer mass condemnation. We’ll see who blinks first.