A Tantrum Too Far?

I don’t know how much Americans are focusing on what’s happening with the payroll tax fight, but this is a big bleeping deal that could have a major impact on the 2012 elections. And it’s make or break time for President Obama.

As you probably heard, yesterday the House Republicans officially nixed the two-month extension of the payroll tax hike, unemployment benefits, and the Medicare “doc fix.” The “doc fix” is a legacy of the 1997 Congress that ties physician reimbursement rates to growth (or not) in the GNP. Since 2003 Congress has voted every year to defer changes, meaning cuts, to physician reimbursement rates. And every year the amount that is deferred gets bigger.

That last part is not getting as much media attention, but if the “doc fix” isn’t fixed, on January 1 Medicare physician reimbursements will be cut by 27 percent. The Administration says it will hang on to bills until January 18 in anticipation of having a deal by then. Even so, if any of you are on Medicare you might want to get any planned medical procedures out of the way before the end of the year. If he cut does go into effect, a lot of doctors are likely to stop seeing Medicare patients.

Of course, the increase in payroll taxes will likely get some attention from workers. And three million people could lose unemployment benefits.

Congressional Republicans are in love with this hostage taking maneuver. Last year congressional Republicans took the “doc fix” hostage by demanding a repeal of the Affordable Care Act in exchange for the fix. A deal was reached on December 9, 2010, that passed the fix for one year, paid for by tweaking benefits in the ACA. That probably encouraged them to engage in the debt ceiling hostage taking stunt this year.

But now it’s December 21, and I understand the Senate officially adjourned for the year after their vote on Saturday. Many House members have packed up and gone home also. President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid say they will do no more bargaining until the House approves the two-month extension. Take it or leave it.

So the propaganda war begins. The House Republicans initially defended themselves by saying they wanted only a 12-month deal, because a two-month deal would be burdensome on payroll software companies. Seriously.

Ezra writes,

The beginning of clarity on this is to realize that it’s not about the payroll tax. If Republicans wanted a clean, one-year extension of the payroll tax, they could get the vote of every Democrat in the House and Senate and this would be done tomorrow.

Rather, this is about finding agreement on two things: the policy concessions that House Republicans will accept as payment for the payroll tax cut, and a process that House Republicans will accept as legitimate in securing those concessions.

Remember, Mitch McConnell had negotiated the two-month extension with Harry Reid, which the Senate overwhelmingly accepted on Saturday so they could all go home. McConnell was supposed to be representing the House as well as the Senate, and the House revolt against the deal was a surprise to Republican leadership. Now they’ve got to defend it.

John Boehner is holding out for a conference committee, and Ezra explains why:

First, it offloads the compromises on a coalition of negotiators who come from different wings of the House Republicans. That protects Boehner in the final agreement. Second, it creates a procedural argument that distracts from the underlying disagreement: House Republicans won’t want to extend the payroll tax cut except in the absence of extraordinary policy concessions, like the immediate greenlighting of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Third, it lets Boehner spend some time standing up to the Senate and the president who are trying to rush a compromise through the House — a move that perhaps gives him some political capital he can spend on the ultimate compromise, as he’ll have proven to House Republicans that he didn’t capitulate at the first sign of pressure.

But the Dems are out telling the world that if the payroll tax cuts expire, this is entirely the House Republicans’ doing. And I say call that bluff. Thomas Schaller says,

The payroll tax fight provides the president a rare opportunity to pull together so many of the loose threads of his presidency. This is the opportunity for the former law professor to be an educator-in-chief about the growing disparities between those who derived incomes from wealth and those who derive them from work. It is an opportunity to prove that he can stare down and unmask the rump Republican national minority that pretends its House majority represents the public will. It is a chance to prove that Washington’s rigged game need not always result in the spoils of political victory going automatically, or at least disproportionately, to the economically spoiled. This is, in short, a moment for the president to demonstrate the resolve that earned his hopeful believers’ support three years ago, and it comes as he begins asking the electorate for another four-year lease on the Oval Office.

Right now, conventional wisdom says the House GOP might sign off on the extension on the condition that the Dems agree to go to a conference on a one-year extension by February 1. The next most likely outcome is that the payroll tax cut, etc., will be allowed to expire. There is a slight chance the House will propose a one-year extension offset by money budgeted for Iraq and Afghanistan. There is little expectation either side will capitulate entirely.

And someone needs to tell Shiela Jackson Lee to STFU. The President doesn’t have the authority to override Congress on a tax bill, and she’s not helping her party by arguing that he does.

Related: More proof that wingnuts have the emotional maturity of six-year-olds.

Update: See also Steve Benen. It appears the enormous majority of Washington Dems want to let the House Republicans hang themselves.

9 thoughts on “A Tantrum Too Far?

  1. What interesting is that the WSJ editorial staff has taken the Republicans to task for this mess. Granted, they only care about the POLITICAL mess, and not the mess the country is in, but hey, it’s a start:

    The WSJ criticizing the Republicans!
    Republicans lost the WJS?
    THE WSJ!
    Paul A. Gigot’s WSJ?

    ROTFLMAOPUSSDCWMITP! (Rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off, puking up soggy, semi-digested, Cheerio’s, wetting myself in the process).

    This is what happens when you allow nuts into your party that even Planters would reject, because they were so defective, they didn’t think people would buy them.

    But, we forget that it’s easier to sell nutty, mentally defective politicians than cans of defective nuts.
    Heck of a job, Boehner!!!

    ROTF… but you get the idea.

    And in your ‘related’ story, something tells me that the author who loves ‘shooting games’ so much didn’t make himself available for the two shooting wars that I’m sure he supported.
    But he’ll probably say it was some cyst, or an allergy to lead, or else he’d have been glad to have been a leader. But in the meantime, he’ll tell you he did his part – not one single Iraqi jet flew over his secret hiding place in his Mom’s basement. WOLVERINES!!!

    • gulag — Yeah, although the WSJ editorial still was mostly bullshit, it signals to us that the Galatian Overlords think the House GOP screwed the pooch. A few GOP senators today are trying to separate themselves from the House GOP rather than defend their move.

  2. Has anybody else noticed the rapt attention with which Eric Cantor always regards Orange Julius? I think he is just oh-so-carefully picking the exact spot to insert the knife in the back so that he can ascend to the Speakership. You can see it in every picture of them together.

  3. ABC Morning news reported this monring the House Republicans wanted to extend the tax cut for a year while the Senate Democrats wanted only a 2 month extension. Then finished off saying it would cost the average wage earner about $40 in extra taxes a week if they couldn’t come to an agreement. Now who is going to win the hearts and souls of America.

    • ABC Morning news reported this morning the House Republicans wanted to extend the tax cut for a year while the Senate Democrats wanted only a 2 month extension.

      Well, yes, there’s that. Are major media corrupt, stupid, or both? And does it matter?

  4. Hey, maybe there’s some ray of hope after all!

    From CNN of all places.
    Tamron Hall is interviewing that odious slippery little sycophant Jack-off Kingston, who says that Obama ought to bring the Congressional leaders over for some eggnog, rum, cigars, and a viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and work through the issues.
    She literally calls this nonsense. It’s in the first two minutes:

    And then, the rest of the 6 minutes, Jack-off spends trying to blame Obama as he evades answering any questions.

    Of course, she’ll probably next be seen doing traffic reports in a local TV station in Montana after this.
    The little dears will complain – she was SOOO rude, SOOOOOOOOOO partisan, don’t you know!

    And what is it with Republicans and movies?
    First, it was something I can’t remember, then “Braveheart,” and now, “It’s a Wonderful Life?”
    For people who hate Hollywood, they sure do refer to it a lot.

    Oh, and Jack-off, are you sure you want to pick THAT movie?
    I mean, you need to understand that most of us are rooting for George Baily, and not Mr. Potter and his dream of building Pottesrville on the backs of the working poor, you yutz!

    • The wingnut version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been mashed together with “1984.” At the end, after Mr. Potter forecloses on George Bailey’s house, and Bailey faces the firing squad, Bailey realizes that Mr. Potter is John Galt is Big Brother. And it’s all OK.

  5. OK, I read the comments on the article about the game where you get to shoot Occupiers. WTF.
    I also saw the Legos takeoff on riot police. I’m disgusted. What is wrong with so many people in this country? So much hate.

  6. Lynne,
    We are a dying country.
    We are out of ideas.
    We no longer create anything.
    Hating one another is all we have left.

    I hate the haters who hate on others.
    What does that say about me?
    Nothing good, I fear…

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