Ah, checkmate. It's a tough position to be in. Looking at that Chess board with no real moves available. But what happens if you're in checkmate and you just refuse to admit it? Well, you get the current wannabe stalemate that's really a checkmate in Congress right now over the payroll tax.
Even though an overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate signed off on a two-month payroll tax extension that everyone could come back and fight over again after the holidays, the Republicans in the House decided to continue their long tradition of "If Obama likes it, it's always bad," and refuse to vote on the bill.
Apparently there was some "miscommunication" between the Senate GOPers and the House folks.
Believing that Boehner was on board and that the House would easily approve the extension, the Senate leaders rushed the measure to the floor Saturday morning and passed it, 89-10, with 39 Republicans behind it.
But Boehner has adamantly denied that he backed the McConnell-Reid deal. “I want to make clear, I told the Senate leaders, both Sen. Reid and Sen. McConnell, that there would be no negotiations with the House until such time as the Senate passed a bill. I meant what I said,” Boehner asserted during a Tuesday news conference.
During a conference call with his rank-and-file members on Saturday afternoon, Boehner initially called the inclusion of the Keystone language in the Senate bill “a victory,” but his Republican colleagues were having none of the Senate deal. House Republicans returned to Washington on Monday and scrambled to find a way out of the emerging political mess.
Republican insiders said McConnell would never have accepted the two-month extension had he believed it would cause a full-fledged revolt among House Republicans. And it wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that the full depth of the House GOP opposition was known.
House Speaker John Boehner, knowing that if he actually had the House vote on the two month extention it could possibly pass (or fail and they'd get blamed for a tax increase), pulled the bill from being voted on this week and said how he wanted it to go to committee instead -- and committee is the place bills you don't want to vote on go to die.
Why didn't he want to have the House just vote on the thing? Well, for one, there was a good chance it would have passed with some Republican support as a whole bunch of Republicans signed those damn "no taxes ever" pledges to their Lord and Savior Grover Norquist and by not voting for the payroll tax cut extension they would, in effect, be voting for a tax increase on all Americans who have jobs.
But they couldn't let this thing pass. Not will all that bipartisan support and Obama liking something. Everything Obama likes is bad.
So kill that tax cut with fire! Except ... wait? We like tax cuts! But Obama likes the cut and everything Obama likes is bad! But ...! *head explosion*
Which is why you're getting a payroll tax increase for Christmas unless John Boehner swallows his pride, accepts he's in checkmate and tells the Tea Party Caucus to shut up and vote on the compromise that already passed the Senate.
But this is Boehner we're talking about here. He's not so much as a house leader, but a house errand boy who freaks out whenever some freshman Congress Critters get all indignant. Dude has zero control over his people.
To the President (and the Democrats' credit), they're at least acting like they finally get this time that Lucy is never, ever going to let them kick the damn football. They're at least all giving Boehner the gas face and such, saying "You know you screwed up, right?" then walking away.
Said the President:
“Now, let’s be clear: Right now, the bipartisan compromise that was reached on Saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on Jan. 1,” Obama said in a surprise appearance from the White House press briefing room on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s the only one.”
The White House sees little upside to throwing Boehner a lifeline and asking Senate Democrats to reopen talks with House Republicans. The way they see it, Obama compromised last week by agreeing to the Keystone XL oil pipeline provision in the Senate bill. Aides say Obama preferred a year-long extension, but deep divisions over paying for the measure resulted in the two-month renewal.
Maybe they've finally accepted the reality that the Republicans have been hijacked by the Doomsday Cult "Save America By Destroying It" wing of their party. These folks, by nature, are obstructionists. Nothing is ever going to get done because they can't allow it. They're having a serious conversation about the Constitutionality of the Legislative Branch forcing the Judiciary to testify to Congress as to why it rules the way it does in court as if there aren't three co-equal branches of government. It's best just to let them finally deal with and confront their own wing nut problem, then deal with whoever limps out of that room alive, claiming to be in charge.
It won't be Boehner, though. His Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell has left him all on his lonesome on this one, so God only knows who's going to come out of this thing looking like a leader of any kind.
“This is a colossal fumble by the House Republicans,” said a senior Senate GOP aide, requesting anonymity to speak candidly about his own party. “Their inability to recognize a win is costing our party our long-held advantage on the key issue of tax relief. It’s time for Boehner and [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor to look these rookies in the eye and explain how the game is won or lost.”
The rebellion among House Republicans against the Senate has put McConnell in an awkward position as well. He faces criticism from the GOP rank and file for cutting a deal they don’t like and fierce attacks from Senate Democrats for not voicing support for his own proposal. In the meantime, at least a half-dozen members from McConnell’s own conference are publicly voicing concern over the House GOP’s decision to block the Senate plan.
While McConnell has publicly backed Boehner through a spokesman on Sunday, he hasn’t engaged in the full-throated attacks on Democrats — or calls for the Senate to reconvene — that many in the House have. Instead, he’s quietly huddled back home in Louisville, including spending some time at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville.
Obama's approval rating is up (isn't that a coincidence) and recent polls out have him beating all his GOP potential 2012 opponents by nice margins. So he's going to his native homeland of the great state of Hawaii to celebrate Christmas and get some R&R with the family. Many Democrats believe that, this time, if they just refuse to give Boehner an out by actually being nice and going back to the table to "negotiate" he'll cave and they'll get that on-the-record vote.
All I can say is, hold that line.