One should never underestimate House Republicans' ability to save face after attracting the entire political world's ire, but this latest corner they've trapped themselves in over the payroll tax cut extension will require some stunningly creative moves to escape. Maybe Rick Perry can teach them some of these moves? Otherwise, yikes.
Just this weekend it looked like House Republicans had Democrats on the run over the extension, as they'd already gotten Democratic leaders to blink on their plan to offset the tax cut extension's cost with a surtax on millionaires; they'd also set up a means of forcing the President to decide on the Keystone XL pipeline drive a wedge into his coalition. All they had to do was sign the time-buying two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits, and "doc fix" that the Senate approved by an 89-10 vote this weekend.
Instead House Republicans revolted against John Boehner, forced him to cancel any votes on the Senate compromise — out of fear that just enough House Republicans might join Democrats and actually pass the thing. Now they're leaving town. Senate Republicans are openly hostile to their party colleagues in the House, Mitch McConnell refuses to help them, the Wall Street Journal editorial board ripped them this morning, and even Newt Gingrich thinks they're acting insane.
Although most House members had gone home for the holidays, House leaders arranged the perfunctory sessions so that the chamber wouldn't technically go into recess without passing the payroll-tax cut.
But as the speaker pro tempore, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), sought to bring the pro forma session to a close, "pursuant to Section 3B of House Resolution 493," Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip, interrupted to request that the chamber bring up the Senate bill. Fitzpatrick walked off the dais.
"Mr. Speaker, you're walking out!" Hoyer called after him. "You're walking away just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers." A few seconds later, the sound system was cut off and the C-SPAN cameras were disabled.
This is all going to be extended eventually, even if the Jan. 1 deadline passes and the goodies have to be disbursed retroactively. (Failing to extend the "doc fix," alone, would bring out the full brunt of the American Medical Association.) House Republicans' best option at this point would be to bite the bullet, bring everyone back to the chamber, pass the two-monther, and hope that everyone forgets about this embarrassing chapter over the holidays. The other option would be to sit tight, maybe watch some Braveheart, and wait for Democrats to cave and meet their demands almost wholesale, which would not be out of the question!
[Image via AP]