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Mitch McConnell Pulls The Rug Out From Under The House GOP On Payroll Tax Cut

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came out with a proposal today that appears to take both sides in the ongoing Payroll Tax Cut debate, but which pretty much undermines the House Republican position on the Payroll Tax Cut extension:

WASHINGTON—Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell says the House and Senate should meet in Washington to extend the payroll tax set to expire Dec. 31.

With the clock ticking, McConnell says the House should pass a short-term extension that gives 160 million Americans certainty that their taxes will not rise Jan. 1. The Kentucky Republican also called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to convene negotiators on the longer-term extension that House Republicans are demanding.

Here’s the press release from McConnell’s office:

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell issued the following statement Thursday regarding a path forward on Keystone XL Pipeline jobs, extending unemployment insurance, the temporary payroll tax holiday and seniors’ access to medical care: “The House and Senate have both passed bipartisan bills to require the President to quickly make a decision on whether to support thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs through the Keystone XL pipeline, and to extend unemployment insurance, the temporary payroll tax cut and seniors’ access to medical care. There is no reason why Congress and the President cannot accomplish all of these things before the end of the year. House Republicans sensibly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms. These goals are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both. Working Americans have suffered enough from the President’s failed economic policies and shouldn’t face the uncertainty of a New Year’s Day tax hike. Leader Reid should appoint conferees on the long-term bill and the House should pass an extension that locks in the thousands of Keystone XL pipeline jobs, prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions.” ###

Leaving aside the necessarily partisan tone of the release, there really isn’t any substantive difference between what McConnell says here and the position that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats have taken on this issue. Reid, after all, has said that he will not appoint conferees until the House acts on the two-month extension, and that is exactly what McConnell is calling on the House to do. Regardless of how you parse it, Mitch McConnell has just hunt John Boehner and the House GOP out to dry.

None of this is surprising, especially when you consider that McConnell and other Senate Republicans are reportedly now worried that this disaster could cause them to miss out on a chance to grab the Senate next year:

Senate Republicans are worried the standoff over extending the payroll tax holiday could hurt their chances of winning the upper chamber next year.

Senior Republican aides have made clear in private conversations that their bosses are not happy with how House Republicans have handled a bipartisan Senate compromise to extend tax relief for two months.

It’s not helping,” a veteran Senate Republican strategist said of the House GOP fight against the Senate package. “Senate Republicans are tired of paying the price for the lack of legislative thoughtfulness in the House.”

The political operative said incumbents such as Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) could pay the price.

These Republican senators have spoken out against House GOP colleagues. Others lawmakers on the ballot next year have urged House members to pass the payroll tax package to avert tax hikes in January.

These are well-founded concerns, of course, and it explains why you’ve seen several Republican Senators speak out against the House GOP’s actions, and, I would submit, why McConnell is taking this position now. There is no way for Republicans to win this battle politically and McConnell wants to cut the losses before it gets worse. I think Boehner probably feels the same way, his problem is that he doesn’t have nearly the same control over his caucus that McConnell does, which is likely the main reason for this entire debacle. A rational politician like Boehner would have taken the two-month extension (with the Keystone XL proviso) without even thinking, so would most of the long-serving Congressmen that Boehner counts as allies no doubt. The Tea Party Caucus, seemingly egged on by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who seems to have spent the last year working to undermine Boehner’s authority and power, are either so obsessed with hurting the President, or so ignorant of the damage they are causing themselves, that they are willing to act like kamikazes just as they did during the debt ceiling negotiations. It’s not a recipe for stable majority.

I noted yesterday that McConnell has pretty much been silent on this issue since the Senate passed its compromise extension. Now, he’s chosen to speak, and he has done so in a manner that pushes the House GOP further out on the gangplank. At this point, they’d do well to listen to him, pass the Senate bill on a voice vote, and get out of town for the Holidays before they end up damaging themselves further. In fact, with McConnell taking this position I don’t see how the House Republicans can maintain their position with any credibility. They are alone, adrift. They either blink, or they look like idiots.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    “…Working Americans have suffered enough from the President’s failed economic policies and shouldn’t face the uncertainty of a New Year’s Day tax hike…”

    This kind of ignores the fact that the tax cut in question was an Obama policy that every Republican voted against in the first place.
    This past summer Boehner couldn’t get the Tea Bag caucus to agree to a budget-cutting deal that had three times as many entitlement cuts as revenue increases. Now Boehner can’t even get his Tea Bag caucus to agree to a deal with Mitch McConnell.
    In other news Weekly Jobless Claims fell to the lowest level since April of ’08. Maybe “failed economic policies” doesn’t mean what ol’ Turtle Face thinks it means?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  2. Rob in CT says:

    Remember, kids: massive tax cuts for wealthy “job creators” don’t need to be “paid for” because the magic tax cut fairy will boost economic growth and, thus, they pay for themselves. A payroll tax cut, however, absolutely MUST be paid for, and various other Republican demands must also be met. Oh, and even then, NO.

    That about sums it up.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 0

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    are either so obsessed with hurting the President, or so ignorant of the damage they are causing themselves, that they are willing to act like kamikazes just as they did during the debt ceiling negotiations.

    All of the above.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  4. datechguy says:

    It’s actually an easy fight for the house if they were willing to make it.

    the senate bill gives $40 for 8 weeks or $160 based on a biweekly paycheck

    the house bill gives $40 for 52 weeks or $1040 based on a biweekly paycheck.

    Simply fire back and the dems. What would you rather have the senate bill or the house bill that gives $880 more to taxpayers.

    Make the $880 dollar vs the $40 argument and stick to it. Compare a tank of gas toa new washer/dryer and make the case..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  5. @datechguy:

    But it is an impossible fight with the Senate GOP not backing them up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. mantis says:

    @datechguy:

    You present a rather dishonest argument, as the point of the two-month extension is to buy time so they can get a longer extension in place. No one is proposing two months and done, as you imply.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  7. Jib says:

    Cave in and the repubs will get away with little damage from this. Its the holidays, very few people are actually paying attention. The only way this does real damage is if the tax cut expires. The majority of people rightly ignore all the noise coming out of DC and focus only on what actually happens. How the tax cut gets enacted, as a series of 2 month extensions, all at once, or whatever, is meaningless except for those of us who follow politics like it was sport (BTW, I am dropping Boehner from may fantasy team if anyone wants him)

    OTOH, Boehner has had real damage done to his standing as speaker. I dont see him surviving this. At this point he cant win. At best for him, he stays on as a diminished speaker with the repubs divided into Boehner and Cantor camps.

    Even if Boehner goes as I think he will, I am not sure Cantor can unite the repubs. There are a lot of new repubs who are in districts that have voted dem as recently as 2008. In the industrial swing states the newly elected repub govs are very unpopular. Support for the Tea Party among independents is crashing. It is going to be a rough election cycle for a bunch of repubs in the house. Unless the hard core repubs start compromising to help the marginal repubs win re-election, the ones who have to fight for re-election will to have to break from the ones in safe seats and look to save their own hides.

    I dont think the hard cores will compromise which is why I continue to predict that the Dems will take the house back in 2012.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. Scott F. says:

    @Jib: the Tea Party freshmen promised jobs in order to get elected. The movement’s dual objectives of stymying Obama’s jobs efforts to prevent his re-election and delivering an improved jobs picture to help their own re-election are fundamentally at odds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. Hey Norm says:

    Boehner has been sucking on the Government teet for almost 30 years…he knows he’s playing a losing hand. It’s pretty clear the Tea Bag people just simply will not let him give in. The poor orange guy is getting f’ed. His only option is to bring up the Senate Bill and rely on Democrats and the few remaining sane Republicans to pass it. Even then he may lose his speakership. But he’s probably going to lose it anyway. We can call it Cantor’s Hanuhkkah Massacre.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  10. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    A big part of Obama’s successful political career can be explained by his opponents’ untimely acts of self-immolation.

    I do not see that trend stopping in 2012.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. ponce says:

    I do not see that trend stopping in 2012.

    It would be nice if the Republicans could work 7 of 9 into this mess as well :).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. WR says:

    @datechguy: That’s a brilliant strategy, as long as the entire population is as stupid as the average Tea Partier. But since anyone with an IQ above Rick Perry’s can see through that obvious lie, it’s not going to do them any good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  13. Terrye says:

    Doug, I think you are wrong on this..the deal that the House GOP refused to pass was actually a compromise bill which had Republican input..they got what they wanted on the pipeline..and then the House refused to accept the deal without the votes necessary to get another deal..If anything I would say that Mitch McConnell pulled their bacon out of the fire.

    No one but rightie bloggers and talk show hosts really believe that there was any guarantee of a better deal, and there is no doubt that Republicans would have been blamed if that tax had gone back up. No doubt at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. @Terrye:

    I think you’re completely misunderstanding what I’m saying

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Nikki says:

    Cave in and the repubs will get away with little damage from this. Its the holidays, very few people are actually paying attention.

    You don’t believe the Dems are going to use the C-Span video of the Repubs walking off the floor as Hoyer was calling for a vote? That they will be reminding people that the first tax cut the Repubs fought was one intended for the middle class?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Terrye says:

    Doug, Maybe I am misunderstanding you or maybe I am just disagreeing with your title, more than your entire post.

    But still, the Republicans do not have to take this deal. McConnell can not pull the rug out from under them, if they don’t let him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. @Terrye:

    I think its fair to say that with Mitch McConnell — and a number of other prominent Senate Republicans — distancing themselves from the House GOP they were in a precarious position. Perhaps the House Republicans thought that McConnell would come to their rescue and repudiate the deal he had just negotiate. He’s too smart a politician for that.

    You’re right. They don’t have to take the deal. If they don’t, though, they are going to pay a huge political price for it

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Miscreant says:

    @WR:

    “That’s a brilliant strategy, as long as the entire population is as stupid as the average Tea Partier. But since anyone with an IQ above Rick Perry’s can see through that obvious lie, it’s not going to do them any good.”

    People with very low-IQs in glass houses…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  19. Eric Florack says:

    mccknnell needs replacement.
    spineless moron

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Miscreant: @Eric Florack: And, once again, Eric validates the low IQ of the opposition. Who says that his IQ is above Rick Perry’s (or even Rick Perry’s age)?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  21. Eric Florack says:

    McConnell had no reason to do what he did. None whatsoever. At least if the measurement is furthering the cause of conservatism in America. As a matter of fact, it’s a little difficult to figure out just what the Connell’s deal is. What his goal is. Of course, that’s been true for several years now. It’s just that because the damage surrounding that more on has been somewhat limited it’s been tolerable.

    This one, it’s gone beyond tolerable. McConnell needs to go and quickly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Eric Florack says:

    If they don’t, though, they are going to pay a huge political price for it

    The polling, Doug, suggests otherwise. The fact is, the house had the support of the lector it. And McConnell stepped in and handed the whole thing duel Bama. The establishment republicans are the ones that are going to pay the big price at election time, and the sad part is I think real conservatives are going to get caught up in the splash effect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0