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Reid to Boehner: Listen to Mitch McConnell

If you look at Harry Reid’s statement to John Boehner today, coupled with what Mitch McConnell said previously, you can see an endgame coming around on this payroll tax/UI/doc fix situation. Here’s Reid’s statement:

I agree with Senator McConnell and the many other Republicans who have spoken up in recent days that the most reasonable path forward is for the House of Representatives to pass the Senate’s bipartisan agreement immediately, to make sure that middle-class families do not wake up to a tax increase on January 1st.

As I have said since the day we passed the Senate’s bipartisan agreement with 89 votes, including 39 Republicans, my goal has always been to forge a year-long extension of the payroll tax credit, unemployment insurance and Medicare payments for physicians, and Democrats will not rest until we do. We have made good progress towards a year-long extension of all of these programs, but there remain important differences between the two parties.

Once the House passes the Senate’s bipartisan compromise to hold middle class families harmless while we work out our differences, I will be happy to restart the negotiating process to forge a year-long extension.

Now, it is important that we now hear from Speaker Boehner in light of Senator McConnell’s comments.

So the “exchange” that allows Republicans to think they saved face would be as follows: Reid appoints conferees for a House-Senate conference on the two bills. In exchange, Boehner passes the two-month extension from the House. And maybe there’s a promise about coming to an agreement by the end of February on a way forward for the full one-year extension. To be clear, in this scenario, Democrats would have gotten everything that they wanted, but Republicans can say they forced the negotiation into conference.

The Republican leadership in the House is meeting at this hour to go over this offer. The President spoke to Speaker Boehner again this morning to tell him that the only way forward begins with passing the two-month extension.

One of the conferees appointed by the House GOP, Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp, floated a three-month extension on CNBC this morning (something about quarterly payroll reports), before walking it back. So maybe that will be part of the demand. The Senate could pass that in a pro forma session by unanimous consent.

I’d expect an announcement within the next day or two.

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David Dayen

David Dayen