Isolated on tax cut, House GOP blinks
Once again, the Tea Party gets the blame when it came for the stalling over the Social Security payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits. Critics say that this time they pushed too far, and lost. “In the end House Republicans felt like they were re-enacting the Alamo, with no reinforcements and our friends shooting at us,” said veteran Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas.
By refusing to accept the deal that Senate Republicans in favor of, a two-month extension of tax cuts for 160 million Americans and jobless benefits for millions more, the House wing of the party isolated itself politically and by some calculations improved President Barack Obama’s re-election prospects.
Last Friday brought a surrender despite grumbling from scattered holdouts and Newt Gingrich, courting tea party support in the race for the presidential nomination.
“Right now, the bipartisan compromise that was reached on Saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on Jan. 1,” Obama said Tuesday after the House rejected the two-month measure that had sailed through the Senate on a vote of 89-10.
The Wall Street Journal piled on, referring to a circular Republican firing squad, and wrote, that the GOP has achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter. No less critical were Senate Republicans, fearing the impact on their own political prospects, both individually and as a group eager to gain a majority in the 2012 elections. If they won 4 seats they would gain control of the Senate. But the holdout meant there could be losses instead.
And for the first time all year, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t in a position to help as House Speaker John Boehner sought to carry out the wishes of his rank and file, the Kentucky senator having voted for the bill that House Republicans insisted was a loser.
“We’re as unified as we’ve been all year,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, on the night before the House Republicans rejected the Senate bill, demanded negotiations on a compromise and drove themselves into a political dead end.
Which meant that this time Sen Harry Reid and the Democrats really didn’t have to negotiate. They and the White House had already caved to Republican demands that any extension be paid for, and that Obama decide within 60 days whether to allow construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.
And Obama threatened to veto any measure that linked tax cuts and the pipeline, hoping to postpone a decision on the project until after the election. Late last week, he did an about-face and demanded Congress send him a bill that did precisely that. So this reversal gave Republicans the political victory some had sought if they were going to approve an extension of the tax cuts and jobless benefits at the core of Obama’s jobless program.
Some lawmakers suspected Boehner had acquiesced in the two-month extension that McConnell worked out, and he was challenged on it 48 hours later in a closed-door meeting. He bristled at the accusation, according to several participants, and denied it flatly. Then there were also reports of infighting, as one Republican lawmaker raised a concern about a memo — inaccurate, he said — from an unidentified staff aide who wrote that Boehner favored a more conciliatory approach than Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other members of the leadership.
On Wednesday morning Boehner told reporters they were there and ready to work, and less than 24 hours, but it ended when Boehner informed his own rank and file, no consultations permitted. By then, even two newcomers to the House had issued public statements calling for an end to the standoff.
“I don’t think that my constituents should have a tax increase because of Washington’s dysfunction,” said freshman Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., now a voting member of the government he was criticizing.
Reid said he hoped the episode had been “a very good learning experience, especially to those who are newer” to Congress.
Tags: House Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner, jobless benefits, President Barack Obama, Sen Harry Reid, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, Social Security payroll tax cuts, Te Party, veteran Republican Rep Kevin Brady, Wall Street Journal
This entry was posted on Saturday, December 31st, 2011 at 8:02 am and is filed under Finance and Business, General, In the News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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