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McConnell, Republicans in Bluffing Game on Year-End Bill

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Chief GOP Obstructionist (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Republicans have insisted that Congress will eventually come to an agreement on the pressing year-end issues, namely the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance, a “doc fix” to avoid a Medicare reimbursement cuts, and possibly some expiring tax breaks. But their version of “agreement” is predicated on the idea that the House will pass a bill and everyone else will accept it. They essentially want to call the bluff of both Senate Democrats and the White House.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid maintains that the bill on offer from the House, which I profiled over the weekend, cannot pass the Senate in its current form. So you really have a game of chicken between the two sides, and if it doesn’t work out, the finger-pointing will commence.

Mitch McConnell gave his thoughts on this yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Sunday that President Obama was bluffing when he promised to veto an extension of the payroll tax cut if it included a provision that required the construction of the Keystone pipeline.

“Obviously we’ll reach an agreement. The president is posturing here,” McConnell said. If Obama vetoed the bill, “He’d have to stand up to the AFL-CIO” said McConnell, noting that some labor unions, including the Teamsters, were in favor of the project. “The president’s been talking about creating jobs, all it requires is his sign-off.”

“It’s a shovel-ready project,” McConnell added, tweaking the president by employing language the administration had used to justify the 2009 stimulus.

First of all, the pipeline is not a job creator; most of the construction will be performed by already-employed members of the companies involved. It’s certainly not a net job creator, nor a net benefit to the country, when you take into account the externalities involved. Second, while some AFL-CIO member unions have supported Keystone XL, including the building trades, who put up the execrable “Jobs for the 99%” site that makes the same errors about job creation, the federation as a whole has taken no position.

Third, as I wrote when looking at the bill, this would just force the President to make his decision now rather than after the election. The President has the ability to veto the pipeline under the auspices of the bill, if he provides a written statement that the pipeline would not be in the national interest. It’s a perfect McConnell trap, designed to draw a wedge rather than move forward a policy. The rest of the bill is a mess of humiliations and cutbacks for public service beneficiaries, rollbacks of EPA regulations and absurdities like eliminating non-existent unemployment and food stamp benefits for millionaires, so McConnell can claim that the GOP rejects the millionaire class.

Republicans are making a bet, informed by past practice, that people don’t pay a lot of attention to the machinations of Congress. They will describe the bill that passes the House as a final offer, and when the Senate rejects it, claim that Democrats forced a tax increase because of their refusal to “compromise.” I don’t see a whole lot of communication to suggest that there’s anything else going on here.

CommunityThe Bullpen

McConnell, Republicans in Bluffing Game on Year-End Bill

Republicans have insisted that Congress will eventually come to an agreement on the pressing year-end issues, namely the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance, a “doc fix” to avoid a Medicare reimbursement cuts, and possibly some expiring tax breaks. But their version of “agreement” is predicated on the idea that the House will pass a bill and everyone else will accept it. They essentially want to call the bluff of both Senate Democrats and the White House.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid maintains that the bill on offer from the House, which I profiled over the weekend, cannot pass the Senate in its current form. So you really have a game of chicken between the two sides, and if it doesn’t work out, the finger-pointing will commence.

Mitch McConnell gave his thoughts on this yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Sunday that President Obama was bluffing when he promised to veto an extension of the payroll tax cut if it included a provision that required the construction of the Keystone pipeline.

“Obviously we’ll reach an agreement. The president is posturing here,” McConnell said. If Obama vetoed the bill, “He’d have to stand up to the AFL-CIO” said McConnell, noting that some labor unions, including the Teamsters, were in favor of the project. “The president’s been talking about creating jobs, all it requires is his sign-off.”

“It’s a shovel-ready project,” McConnell added, tweaking the president by employing language the administration had used to justify the 2009 stimulus.

First of all, the pipeline is not a job creator; most of the construction will be performed by already-employed members of the companies involved. It’s certainly not a net job creator, nor a net benefit to the country, when you take into account the externalities involved. Second, while some AFL-CIO member unions have supported Keystone XL, including the building trades, who put up the execrable “Jobs for the 99%” site that makes the same errors about job creation, the federation as a whole has taken no position.

Third, as I wrote when looking at the bill, this would just force the President to make his decision now rather than after the election. The President has the ability to veto the pipeline under the auspices of the bill, if he provides a written statement that the pipeline would not be in the national interest. It’s a perfect McConnell trap, designed to draw a wedge rather than move forward a policy. The rest of the bill is a mess of humiliations and cutbacks for public service beneficiaries, rollbacks of EPA regulations and absurdities like eliminating non-existent unemployment and food stamp benefits for millionaires, so McConnell can claim that the GOP rejects the millionaire class.

Republicans are making a bet, informed by past practice, that people don’t pay a lot of attention to the machinations of Congress. They will describe the bill that passes the House as a final offer, and when the Senate rejects it, claim that Democrats forced a tax increase because of their refusal to “compromise.” I don’t see a whole lot of communication to suggest that there’s anything else going on here.

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David Dayen

David Dayen