CommunityThe Bullpen

Three Senate Republicans Urge House Colleagues to Pass Payroll Tax Deal

One side effect of the payroll tax crackup in the House is that Senate Republicans were totally blindsided by it. 39 Republicans, including the Minority Leader, supported the compromise two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and a doctor’s fix to prevent a 27% cut in Medicare reimbursement rates. They seemingly had no idea that John Boehner would reverse himself and oppose the finished product he empowered Mitch McConnell to negotiate. As a result, Senate Republicans are left exposed. And now, three of them – interestingly, three of the most endangered Senate incumbents in 2012 – are urging their House colleagues to pass the short-term extension.

A trio of Senate Republicans on Monday strongly urged House Republicans to embrace the payroll tax cut extension bill passed in the Senate over the weekend.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) joined Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in calling for the House GOP to back the two-month extension, which overwhelmingly passed the Senate by a vote of 89-10 on Saturday. All three senators are up for reelection in 2012.

“There is no question we need to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance for the entire year,” Heller said in a statement. “The American people deserve long-term, forward-thinking policies. However, there is no reason to hold up the short-term extension while a more comprehensive deal is being worked out.”

Heller and Brown have strong opponents for their re-elections (Rep. Shelley Berkley and Elizabeth Warren), while Lugar has a tough primary challenger, as well as a possible contested special election from Rep. Joe Donnelly. They obviously believe that failure to extend the tax cut will reflect badly on them going into an election year.

It’s not clear that House Republicans care about the fortunes of their Senate counterparts, but of course they all have to run in the same election in 2012, so you’d think some self-preservation instinct would kick in at some point. Until then, however, they are clearly angling for the best deal they can get. And they don’t think this two-month stopgap, followed by some negotiation thereafter, represents that ideal.

I do agree with Brian Beutler that the White House holds the cards in this game of chicken:

The X-factor here is the White House. What will they do if they sense that the payroll cut, and UI and the doc fix are all about to expire? In the last days of the debt limit fight, the Obama administration faced a similar dilemma. Reid had a plan in the Senate, Boehner had a plan in the House. But just as now, House Republicans rebelled, and left Boehner hanging — seemingly destroying his ability to negotiate. Suddenly Reid had the only viable legislation in the Congress and with the hours ticking down, it looked like Republicans would have to cave and pass it. That’s when the White House stepped in and cut a deal with Republicans, effectively bailing Boehner out. That’s the deal that ultimately passed. If the White House spooks out about the prospect of all these provisions lapsing, administration officials could step in once again.

We’ve definitely seen that movie before. We’ll have to see if they change the reels this time.

Previous post

Pearlstein's Underpants Gnome Theory For a Donor Strike

Next post

Supreme Court Sets Dates for Health Care Reform Arguments

David Dayen

David Dayen