Will House Democrats Torpedo Obama’s Tax Deal?
While it looks like the Obama Administration, along with Senate Democrats, appears to be close to a deal with Senate Republican over extension of the Bush tax cuts, House Democrats are signaling that they aren’t necessarily agreeing to anything:
While the public focus of the Great Tax Battle remains riveted on the U.S. Senate, top Democratic insiders are privately worried about the real lame-duck end game: a last-minute, potentially deal-breaking revolt by Democrats in the House.
That’s why Vice-President Joe Biden and White House Interim Chief of Staff Pete Rouse invited House Democratic Leaders to the VP’s mansion Saturday night for what turned out to be a two-hour meeting.
The existence of the meeting has been reported, but not the contents.
The topic, according to a source close to outgoing (but still in charge) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was how to cajole liberal Democrats in the lower chamber into accepting the results of the deal President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans are trying to cut.
The participants talked in detail of what elements should or should not be in a Senate package so that it can win the requisite vote in the House. And they discussed specific members and blocs — what they would need (in the bill or elsewhere) to be supportive.
The Senate-based deal is likely to include a two-year extension of Bush-era income tax cuts, even for the wealthiest families and a reauthorization of the existing program of jobless benefits so that some 2 million Americans don’t lose them at Christmas.
But the real question is: What else, if anything, are rank-and-file Democrats going to require support with the deal?
That is an urgent, but not necessarily cataclysmic matter in the Senate. If Obama strikes a deal with the GOP, he and they will need only 18 out of 58 Democratic senators to go along with it to ensure that the coalition has 60 votes to prevent a deal-killing filibuster.
The biggest problem — most seem to have forgotten — is in the House. Many seem to have forgotten that it is the House, which must originate tax bills, that last week voted by a 234-188 margin to limit the extension of the Bush tax cuts to families making less than $250,000 — Obama’s original campaign pledge.
Speaker-to-Be John Boehner denounced the vote as grandstanding “chicken crap,” but, being the legislative veteran that he is, he understood its procedural significance: It meant that whatever the Senate produces must come back to the House for another vote.
And that is where the real crisis could kick in for White House, which increasingly is in the position of fighting with its party base.
This would seem to be the main reason that the current deal includes both temporary extension of the tax cuts and another extension of unemployment benefits. One would expect that we’ll also see some pork added in there to bring in enough Democratic votes to get the 218+ needed in the House to get the deal through the lower chamber. Nonetheless, it’s worth remembering that this isn’t a done deal just quite yet.