House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

My inkling was that today’s vote on the unemployment insurance extension was something of a dry run, for two reasons. One, the House leadership wanted to see how much support they could get for a UI extension. Two, they wanted to test-run an important bill under the suspension calendar, which allows for no amendments or the motion to recommit. Because I suspect that’s how they’re planning on pulling this off.

Steny Hoyer, the number two in the House Dem leadership, told Democrats at a caucus meeting this morning that they would get to vote this year on just extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, a senior Dem aide tells me, signaling support for a confrontational move towards the GOP that liberals have been pushing.

Asked if Democrats would definitely get a chance to hold this vote, the senior aide responded: “Definitely.”

Hoyer’s declaration comes as Democrats have been debating the way forward on the Bush tax cuts, and another aide tells me that “more than half” of the Dem caucus supports this course of action.

If they offer up the bill under standard rules, Republicans will offer a motion to recommit to add in the high-end tax cuts, and Democrats will join with Republicans to pass that by a wide margin, I predict. But if they moved the bill on the suspension calendar, they could get precisely the vote the want, without amendment. The catch would be that they would need 290 votes for it. But even if they lose, they get Republicans to vote against a giant tax cut for the middle class.

The Paygo rules mean nothing here, because it specifically exempted tax cuts under $250,000 from the statutory rule.

Of course, nobody should act like Republicans have no opportunity to pass their own legislation on this after they get control of the House. It’s a virtual certainty that, if nothing is resolved, they’ll move some kind of full extension, and the House would pass that with ease. The Senate might as well, given the diminished Democratic majority.

There is value in getting the actual vote, however, regardless of the outcome. The public ought to know who supports what position in this debate. And who knows, maybe Democrats could get enough crossover votes to pass the middle class tax cuts only, although the prospects of that holding in the Senate are quite dim.

My inkling was that today’s vote on the unemployment insurance extension was something of a dry run, for two reasons. One, the House leadership wanted to see how much support they could get for a UI extension. Two, they wanted to test-run an important bill under the suspension calendar, which allows for no amendments or the motion to recommit. Because I suspect that’s how they’re planning on pulling this off.

Steny Hoyer, the number two in the House Dem leadership, told Democrats at a caucus meeting this morning that they would get to vote this year on just extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, a senior Dem aide tells me, signaling support for a confrontational move towards the GOP that liberals have been pushing.

Asked if Democrats would definitely get a chance to hold this vote, the senior aide responded: “Definitely.”

Hoyer’s declaration comes as Democrats have been debating the way forward on the Bush tax cuts, and another aide tells me that “more than half” of the Dem caucus supports this course of action.

If they offer up the bill under standard rules, Republicans will offer a motion to recommit to add in the high-end tax cuts, and Democrats will join with Republicans to pass that by a wide margin, I predict. But if they moved the bill on the suspension calendar, they could get precisely the vote the want, without amendment. The catch would be that they would need 290 votes for it. But even if they lose, they get Republicans to vote against a giant tax cut for the middle class.

The Paygo rules mean nothing here, because it specifically exempted tax cuts under $250,000 from the statutory rule.

Of course, nobody should act like Republicans have no opportunity to pass their own legislation on this after they get control of the House. It’s a virtual certainty that, if nothing is resolved, they’ll move some kind of full extension, and the House would pass that with ease. The Senate might as well, given the diminished Democratic majority.

There is value in getting the actual vote, however, regardless of the outcome. The public ought to know who supports what position in this debate. And who knows, maybe Democrats could get enough crossover votes to pass the middle class tax cuts only, although the prospects of that holding in the Senate are quite dim.

David Dayen

David Dayen