Wrong Move, Boehner

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.

19 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. the beginning of the end of John Boehner’s control of the House.  This is the second time in a crisis situation that Boehner has been derailed by the more conservative members of his caucus.  In a sane political world, Boehner would be better off resigning as Speaker and allowing Cantor to step up and take the blame for the gridlock.

  2. harrydoby says:

    Clearly, Boehner doesn’t have control of the House.  This latest failure of leadership should force a showdown for the Speaker’s position.

    Guess we’ll see if Boehner has a “silent majority” in his caucus that will support him and oust Cantor, or if the GOP’s penchant for doubling-down on their unsupportable positions will elevate Cantor to the Speakership instead.

    • Boehner couldn’t get a majority of his caucus to vote for the 2-month extension; the same happened back with the debt ceiling debacle.  I take that as a strong sign that, should someone call for a leadership vote, Cantor has a strong chance of winning that battle.

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        Cantor has the countries best interests at heart and can go where Boehner can’t.  I’m personally not seeing Cantor come up with a grand bargain with Obama that passes muster.

        What’s the difference between Cantor and Boehner is neither one is going to compromise for the good of the country.

        Can you say Kabuki?

        • Gilpin Guy says:


          if neither one is going to compromise . . .

        • Boehner actually seems to have tried once or twice to work with others and was shot down by his own caucus.

          I think in the end I’d rather have Cantor, who isn’t as good at pretending to compromise because at his best he’s only pretending to compromise.

          • ArapaGOP says:

            Is not a dictator. Every member of Congress is a conscientious representative first and a partisan second.

            Republicans, who unlike Democrats and maybe some Senators in both parties are in touch with business, say the two month extension would have creating accounting problems for many businesses. They’ve tried to say so, but the media has focused on the flashy politics.

            If you read the WSJ editorial in full, they say that this is a political loss, because the actual economics are unimportant. But if you’re going play this political pandering game, do it for the whole year so there’s no risk of creating tons of new accounting needs. What is so wrong with this?

            • Wong21fr says:

              Just how would it create accounting problems?  Unless the payroll software a company employs is so inflexible that it does not allow for adjustments to paycheck deductions there wouldn’t be any problem.  The accounting issues argument is only valid if a company’s accounting department is composed of idiots who can’t change their payroll settings on Quicken and result in deducting too much from employee paychecks.

              As you are a political hack, and wouldn’t know an economic argument from the party dick you readily place in your mouth, maybe you have a hard time understanding that increasing employment is not the economic incentive.  Rather, it’s the reduction in employee net income and the corresponding decrease in consumer purchasing power.  Killing the payroll tax deduction reduces consumption in the economy and therefore decreases overall GDP because the payroll tax increase would not translate into increased government spending.

              Slap that against your face.

              • Diogenesdemar says:

                the BOTs how, it’s likely to interfere with their programming.  Just nod your head in agreement with it’s most recent talking-points edict, and maybe it’ll wander off before doing any real damage.  

              • Until last year, there had never been a situation where the employer and employee contributions to SSI were different.  Many accounting packages needed to be updated for that.

                And now this proposal requires that accounting programs alter (increase) the SSI rate for employees only when it reaches a certain cap.  Again, this is not something that has ever happened before.  Another program change will need to be made for most packages.

                But the change isn’t exactly rocket science.  It’s an inconvenience, and one that most accounting software companies could not resolve in the next week+.  But it’s also something that could be compensated for at a later date if needed.

                In other words – yes, it’s a problem, but no, it’s not something that any business should worry themselves over, and certainly not something that the GOP should try to use as an excuse to Do The Right Thing.

            • Boehner is far from a dictator – he’s a puppet figurehead at this point in time.

              He could have brought the Senate 2-month extension up for a vote, and it would probably have passed – but he didn’t have a majority of his own party’s support.  Rather than face what amounted to a failure on a vote of confidence, he opted for a procedural workaround.

              PS – If you’ll recall…

              1. Obama and Democrats made the first moves on a full-year extension, with a proposal that funded the tax cut via a surtax on millionaires.
              2. Senate Republicans filibustered that bill.
              3. House Republicans then proposed and passed a full-year bill that cut the duration of unemployment benefits at a time when we still have record long-term unemployment; it also increased fees for Medicare and did other things that Republicans knew Senate Democrats would not vote for.
              4. Senate Republicans blocked the House Republican bill from coming to a vote in the Senate.
              5. John Boehner then appointed Mitch McConnell to help negotiate a compromise bill with Senate Democrats, and consulted with him during the process.
              6. The compromise turned out to be a 2-month deal, which John Boehner initially praised…
              7. … until the Tea Party contingent of the House GOP caucus decided to vote against it.
              8. But it appears enough House Republicans may have voted to pass the bill that it would have succeeded with Democratic party support…
              9. … so a procedural maneuver was promoted instead, preventing an up or down vote on the extension.

              The request for a conference committee was a procedural smokescreen.  As I already posted, Republicans were prepared to appoint conferees who were against the payroll tax cut extension altogether, and there was little chance the committee could be formed and work through differences before the new year.

            • Fidel's dirt nap says:

              Boehner can’t control everything.  And WTF is wrong with the middle class anyway ?  They think those tax cuts are free ?  Have they even heard about pay to play ?  Cut a check and get in line !

              The nerve.

    • Jones Smith says:

      He was clearly suppressing a grin. Looked like the cat that just ate the canary.  

      • harrydoby says:

        Simply means Cantor and the new radicals of the Tea Party will never compromise.  

        When smaller January paychecks start going out (and unemployment checks stop altogether for millions), this will be as much of a shock to the voters as the original Newt-spectacular government shutdown in ’95.  

        … With equally disastrous results for the GOP in 2012.  The GOP senators and Speaker Boehner know that.  Cantor and gang will learn soon enough.

  3. Diogenesdemar says:

    (And, don’t look at me like that. You were all thinking the same thing, I just happen to be juvenile enough to have posted it first.)

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