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House Republicans Find Smarmiest Way Possible to Reject Payroll Tax Deal

The procedural wizards in the House Republican caucus stayed up late last night to concoct this scheme, a way to dispose of the Senate’s payroll tax deal by voting affirmatively. They think this helps insulate their members from charges of rejecting the deal, and causing a tax increase of on average $1,000 a year. Here’s how it’ll go down:

Instead of putting the deal up for a vote, they will vote to call a conference committee with Senate negotiators to reconcile their poison pill-laden bill with the Senate bill that received 89 votes. Then they will pass a “motion to instruct conferees” that will essentially tell them to pass their version of the bill. The minority will have the opportunity to enter their own motion to instruct conferees, but in all likelihood that will be voted down.

Remember, these are the same Republicans that cried holy hell during the “deem and pass” era, when Democrats tried to pass the health care bill without actually passing it. Now they’re trying the same thing, so that when their members are confronted over this vote, they can have this exchange:

Democrat: You voted to increase taxes on the middle class.
Republican: No I didn’t, I voted to send our bill to conference. It’s not my fault that the Senate didn’t show up! (flash toothy grin)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said last night she would refuse to name confereees from her caucus. So the conference would consist of just House Republicans. Chuck Schumer had this to say:

House Republicans claim to support this middle-class tax cut, but they are really trying to bury it in a committee. Speaker Boehner is using one of the oldest tricks in Washington of claiming to support something and then sending it to a legislative graveyard where it never sees the light of day.

It’s clear Speaker Boehner is afraid to give the Senate’s bipartisan compromise an up-or-down vote because he worries it would pass. As more and more Republicans denounce the Speaker’s actions, his stalling will prove politically unsustainable. The Senate will never allow House Republicans to bottle up this tax cut in a committee.

I don’t know that Boehner’s worried the bill would pass, he just doesn’t want his caucus to carry the blame of it failing. So he does this loop-de-loop to avoid that charge.

So the Senate has already left town. The House plans to send this thing to a conference committee and then leave town. So far nobody’s backing down.

Hopefully long-term unemployed people have a giant mass of savings from which to draw! Hopefully Medicare patients can sweet-talk their way into getting doctors to accept them at a 27% discount! Hopefully the economy won’t drop 1% of GDP from the loss of demand!

It’s been clear to me from the start that Republicans don’t really want to extend these expiring measures. They wanted a plausible way to blame Democrats for them expiring. I guess they think they’ve found it.

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David Dayen

David Dayen