Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Sandbag Game, Orange Julius Version

Having completely lost control of his caucus to the Tea Party, Orange Julius is now using legislative parlor tricks to assure that the payroll tax cut extension fails and that the Senate bill, passed 89-10 by an overwhelming bipartisan majority is scrapped for the House version.  On top of that, the House plans to leave town for the holidays after the vote, leaving both Senate Republicans and Democrats with a take it or leave it deal.  Brian Beutler:

“We will have a motion to reject the Senate amendment and go to conference,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters at a Monday press briefing. “We expect the minority to have a motion to instruct conferees. And then we will have a majority resolution that will lay out our House position that is consistent with the bill that we passed last week.”

In other words, House GOP members will get to vote “yes,” but in a way that says “no” to the Senate bill. This bears some resemblance to the health care reform-era controversy over so-called self-executing rules, when Democrats briefly considered tying two votes together into one, thus “deeming” unpopular legislation passed. Under the GOP’s plan, there’s no way for a vote to result in passage of the Senate bill.

Despite the delays and the procedural hijinx, House GOP aides confidently predicted that their measure will pass Tuesday. That would leave Reid to decide whether to stick to his guns or to appoint negotiators to work through the holidays on a full-year plan to renew the payroll tax cut, extend unemployment benefits, and patch a Medicare reimbursement formula to make sure physicians don’t take a big paycut on the first of the year. Reid has insisted he considers the matter closed and will leave Boehner holding the ball — giving him a choice between quelling the rebellion and passing the bipartisan Senate bill before January 1 or triggering a tax increase on middle class workers in a weak economy.

Republicans will hit back and call on Democrats to return to Washington to strike yet another compromise. Complicating that message for them? Many Republicans plan to leave town tomorrow after the close of votes. 

In other words, after the deal was worked out in the Senate and Speaker Boehner signed off on it Saturday, the Tea Party revolted.  Orange Julius has now lost complete control of his own caucus, and the Senate deal cannot be passed under this 2 for 1 vote.  If today's vote passes, the Senate deal is automatically scrapped, if it fails, the Senate deal dies normally.  Jon Chait points out why the revolt happened:  Boehner is a terribly weak leader, and the Tea Party caucus has decided that America's poor, working class, and middle class aren't paying enough taxes.

Republican opposition to extending the payroll tax is, in part, an expression of this same belief that the lower-earning half of the income distribution is getting a free ride – that the “takers” are exploiting the “makers,” to use Paul Ryan’s increasingly common catchphrase. This happens to be a wildly unpopular position, and Republicans are attempting to avoid having to defend it openly. (Being unpopular obviously isn't the same as being wrong, though I do disagree with the Republican position.)

Surprise, the Tea Party has always been the political patsy of the one percent, and nowhere is this more clear than the payroll tax cut rebellion in the House.  The fact of the matter is the Tea Party doesn't care if the 160 million Americans get burned with higher taxes next year...as far as they're concerned, you're all looters and moochers anyway.

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