Once again, John Boehner can’t keep his caucus in line. This fact contributes to the absolute disgrace that is Congress these days. The Republican leadership makes deals with the Democrats and then reneges because Boehner can’t get the Republican votes needed to pass a law.
Let’s be honest here – the tea partiers are holding this up for reasons completely unrelated to the payroll tax holiday. They want quick action on the Keystone XL Pipeline and more discretionary spending cuts, according to Ezra Klein. The American people are the ones who will pay the price in higher taxes – taxes that are in fact regressive, so the rich won’t pay anything more than they already do. And Boehner says that the House has finished the work of the American people and is saying that the ball is back in the Senate’s court.
Boehner also says that a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday is a non-starter because the House doesn’t want any more half measures that might “cause uncertainty.” Dana Milbank’s column today points out the lie there:
On Monday, the bar owner’s son aligned himself with House conservatives in opposition to a broadly bipartisan plan to extend a payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans.
This new position, essentially reversing the one Boehner voiced a mere three days earlier, proves anew that the old-school speaker is less a leader of his caucus than a servant of his radical backbenchers. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he’s their barkeep.
Three times at a news conference on Friday, Boehner was asked whether he could support a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, as Senate Democrats and Republicans were planning. Three times, Boehner declined to state an objection to the two-month extension (he objected to a different part of the agreement, about an oil pipeline, which the senators subsequently changed to his liking).
“I just gave you an answer. How much clearer can I be?” Boehner said, refusing to take issue with the two-month extension.
And so senators passed the extension, 89 to 10. Tea Party heroes Pat Toomey and Marco Rubio voted for the compromise. The fiercest budget cutter of them all, Sen. Tom Coburn, voted for it. Republican lions such as John Cornyn, Jon Kyl and Mitch McConnell voted for it. Only seven Republicans voted “no.”
McConnell, the Senate Republican leader who negotiated the compromise, kept Boehner informed at every step — and was confident enough in Boehner’s acquiescence that his office sent out a notice saying there would be no more legislative business in the Senate until 2 p.m. on Jan. 23. But Boehner’s backbenchers — particularly the Tea Party freshmen — had other ideas, and, in a Saturday teleconference, made clear to Boehner that he would have to abandon the compromise.
The House Republican freshmen have become a bit tipsy with power, and freshman Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) on Tuesday boasted at a news conference that his class is “performing more like sophomores now than freshmen.” Actually, their performance is more sophomoric than anything, but they’ve been able to deliver a string of insults to Boehner, most notably the July revolt that forced the speaker to pull his debt-limit plan from the floor. If Boehner needs any more evidence he’s out of style in his party, he can ponder the rise in the presidential race of Newt Gingrich, the man Boehner tried to depose from the speakership 15 years ago, losing his leadership position in the process.
On Tuesday, Boehner had the unpleasant task of going before the cameras to explain why his House Republicans, after championing tax cuts for millionaires, would be voting against a tax cut for ordinary Americans.
“You know, Americans are tired of, uh,Washington’s short-term fixes and gimmicks,” Boehner began. Behind him in the hallway outside his office, four American flags provided patriotic cover for the reversal. He complained that “the Senate Democratic leaders passed a two-month extension” — omitting mention that Senate Republicans, with Boehner’s knowledge and tacit support, had agreed.
So rather than pass a two-month extension, he’s willing to have the tax cuts lapse entirely when they expire at year end?
“I don’t believe the differences between the House and Senate are that great,” Boehner said, by way of reassurance. But this only confirmed that his side was making a big stink over nothing.
Why didn’t he raise warnings earlier about the two-month extension? “Uh, we expressed our reservations about what the Senate was doing,” he said.
What did he make of the fact that 90 percent of the Senate supported the compromise? Boehner, in reply, demanded to know why “we always have to go to the lowest common denominator” — which is exactly what he had done in letting his backbenchers lead him.
The speaker denied the obvious truth that he had encouraged the compromise before opposing it. He licked his lips, gave a “thanks, everybody” and disappeared.
The sophomoric freshmen must have needed their barkeep to serve them another round.
This is what happens when you make a deal with the devil to get power. The Republican establishment made that deal with the Tea Party to win the 2010 Congressional election. They made this bed. Gridlock has ensued for the entire term. Congress is an absolute disgrace with something like an 11% approval rating (who ARE the people who approve, by the way?). And now, again, the American people that they profess to love so much will suffer. The rich won’t, remember, because the payroll tax is regressive. Nice going, Republicans.