Thursday, December 22, 2011

Clock runs out: Boehner caves on payroll tax bill

Didn't blog till now because I've been following this drama all day. The episode is now officially over. As rumored, Boehner caved and the Senate's compromise payroll tax bill will be passed, albeit with a few cosmetic changes to make it slightly less embarrassing for the Speaker.

Let me stipulate at the outset, I find it depressingly pathetic we're cheering this "victory." Dems already gave away the highly popular mini-tax hike on the super-rich, awarded the GOPers their Pipeline talking point and only received a two month extension in return. This is a victory of optics, not of policy. Without Boehner's bumbling on the vote, they would have nothing. The Dems got lucky this time. Still, an optical victory is something. The Democrats finally held a line. That's more than we usually get and perhaps the thrill of this victory will make them less risk averse in the next battle that ever looms just over the near horizon.

Still, it wasn't just a victory over the recalcitrance of the crackpot caucus. The legacy media lost this battle too. Despite their best efforts to spin this as an just another DC gridlock, both sides do it, impasse, the majority of voters didn't buy it. The gatekeepers were reminded their hold on the narrative is slipping. That is worth celebrating.

Think the turning point came when the Arkansas GOPer defected. He issued this public statement early this afternoon:
These past few days I have met with my constituents in Arkansas’s First District, they are angry and they don’t understand why Congress cannot sit down, hammer out our differences, and have a solution we can all support. My constituents are honest, hard-working people who deserve a Congress that will put partisan politics aside in favor of the greater good. Congress must come together and act to ensure that my constituents, and millions of Americans all across the country, are not hit with higher taxes on January 1st...

We are now in a position that requires all options to be on the table, that requires Republicans to not only demand a willingness to compromise, but to offer it as well.
I've been to Arkansas. I'm pretty sure the First District is not a hotbed of liberalism. When his constituents compel him to make a statement like that, it tells me the tide is turning.

All that being said, I also think Steve Benen is onto something here. This payroll tax revolt was never about the bill. Cantor, who's been lusting after that gavel forever, played Boehner for a fool. He knew full well what Boehner was doing. Probably encouraged him to take the Senate deal. And then turned around and led the crackpot revolt.

End result? As Ed Henry tweeted: Longtime Boehner friend says Speaker did right thing but adds:"He did the deal w/Reid then told his caucus. I fear he may be ousted in '12."

I'd guess that was Cantor's plan all along. However it does appear Boehner is wising up to Cantor's perfidy. Johnny is finally finding his mojo, now that he understands his gavel is under threat. He's giving the crackpots a take it or leave it deal. Either pass the bill with unanimous consent tomorrow, or he'll make them take an on the record, roll call vote next week.

Not sure yet whether it's a blessing or a curse, but, interesting times. [photo credit]

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