A funny thing happened since yesterday, when Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner swore that the House would defeat the bipartisan Senate version of the two month payroll tax cut extension. Once the evening rolled around and it was time to vote, the House decided to wait another day.
Maybe it was the news that some House Republicans actually wanted to vote for the extension that had Boehner second guessing himself. After all, every member of the House is up for reelection in 2012, and most of them ran on a platform of never raising taxes on anyone, ever. Forcing 160 million Americans to pay an additional $1000 a year sort of counters that pledge. Or maybe Boehner, already embarrassed once for allegedly agreeing to push the House to support the Senate plan, then trying repeatedly to claim he did no such thing, didn’t want to once more show he doesn’t have the control over his caucus that he claims he does.
Either way, House Republicans have decided to reject the standard up and down vote on the bill that they were promising to have Monday night, and instead are doing a dual vote that will both defeat the Senate version and vote for sending the bill itself to committee to be retooled. With such a vote, each GOP member then can choose to say that his or her vote wasn’t a vote to raise taxes on the middle and working class, but about trying to fight for a better deal on their behalf. For a party that has made numerous comments about the Democrats’ desire to “kick the can down the road,” it sure looks like they are voting to….kick the can down the road.
But will their maneuver work? Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have stated they will not send Democrats to committee to re-negotiate the bill. Republicans hope to spin that refusal into a new meme showing that Democrats are the ones really killing the bill, but with the Democratically controlled Senate already passing it, that may be a tough sell.
Update: The House has voted 229-193 to send the bill to conference with the Senate. Ezra Klein has a great explanation of why, regardless of what either side says, this impasse has absolutely nothing with extending the payroll tax cut.
Photo from republicanconference via flickr creative commons