We discussed yesterday our thoughts that House Republicans were making a massive strategic error in rejecting a Senate compromise to extend the payroll tax cut. Today, even the conservative Wall Street Journal (subscription required) is wondering what the hell the GOP is thinking:
If Republicans didn’t want to extend the payroll tax cut on the merits, then they should have put together a strategy and the arguments for defeating it and explained why.
But if they knew they would eventually pass it, as most of them surely believed, then they had one of two choices. Either pass it quickly and at least take some political credit for it…
…At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly. Then go home and return in January with a united House-Senate strategy that forces Democrats to make specific policy choices that highlight the differences between the parties on spending, taxes and regulation. Wisconsin freshman Senator Ron Johnson has been floating a useful agenda for such a strategy. The alternative is more chaotic retreat and the return of all-Democratic rule.
Meanwhile, MSNBC outlined in its “First Read” three reasons why Republicans won’t win this battle:
Reason #1: House Republicans allowed the Senate to break for the Christmas holiday without explicit orders it would need to come back. In fact, Politico notes that the silence from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is deafening. Reason #2: The Senate passed its legislation by a bipartisan 89-10 vote, raising the question whether a conference committee could produce a deal that could get 60-plus Senate votes. Reason #3: The House GOP didn’t allow an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill, suggesting that it could have passed if they did. Those three reasons will be hard for the House GOP to explain away if the tax cut expires after Dec. 31.
We’ll repeat again what we wrote yesterday: The message that will be received by voters is that House Republicans blocked a Senate plan to cut taxes for the middle class.
The Journal seems to think that this GOP mistake may mark the beginning of the end of control of the House. We’ll have to wait to see if House Speaker John Boehner comes up with some last-minute duct tape here, but we can definitely see looking back at this a year from now as a turning point for Republican fortunes in 2012.
Given that Republicans enjoyed the biggest congressional victory since 1948 only two years ago, the swift reversal of their momentum is really quite breathtaking.