House GOP Paints Itself Into a Corner on Payroll TaxesDecember 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw
The Senate, having voted 89-10 to approve an extension of payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits and dome other policies that are scheduled to expire on January 1st, has recessed for the year and gone home for the holiday recess. All that the House has to do to make the bill officially ready to be signed into law is hold a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate’s bipartisan bill. But during a 3 a.m. meeting of the House Rules Committee last night, the Republican majority devised a different plan — twist the voting procedure so that the Senate’s bill can be rejected while allowing the Republicans to save face by technically voting “aye.”
David Dayen at FDL News Desk reports:
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 Republicans say they oppose the bipartisan Senate bill because it only extends the payroll tax cuts for two months. But the Democrat-led Senate has been trying for months to get the Republicans to support a longer-term extension. The Republicans have repeatedly rejected the Senate’s offers, first demanding that the tax cut be offset (a huge flip-flop), then that nobody who makes over $1 million sees an increase in their taxes (thereby risking a large tax increase on the middle class), and then that a provision related to the Keystone XL oil pipeline be attached to the legislation. At this point, the Senate has agreed to give in to both of those demands, but only for long enough to keep the payroll tax cuts in effect while they negotiate a longer deal. That’s what the Republicans will be rejecting today, while trying to obscure the procedure and make it look like they’re the ones being pro-active.