House GOP aides basically admitted this to reporters yesterday, but it bears repeating. The reason they fashioned a Rube Goldberg-esque procedural device to kill the Senate payroll tax cut compromise is that they know they’re now in political free fall on the issue. By doing things the way they did, at least vulnerable House Republicans can say that they didn’t vote against a tax cut for the middle class.
This was probably the only way House GOP leaders were ever going to get the minority of their caucus on board with the vote. And if you want proof, look no further than the handful of Republicans who defected from their leadership Tuesday. Or, better yet, vulnerable Senate Republicans who are in cycle in 2012.
“It angers me that House Republicans would rather continue playing politics than find solutions,” said Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) in a Tuesday statement. “Their actions will hurt American families and be detrimental to our fragile economy.”
He and a handful of other Senate Republicans chimed in yesterday with similar statements calling in House Republicans to knock off the gamesmanship. That civil war clearly isn’t over.
By the same token, seven Republicans — Reps. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Walter Jones (R-NC), Charlie Bass (R-NH), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Tim Johnson (R-IL), and Frank Wolf (R-VA) — defected from leadership on the payroll vote.
Five of those — Bass, Herrera Beutler, Gibson, Johnson, and Wolf — are Democratic targets. One, Flake, is a conservative who has opposed the payroll cut from the beginning but — and this is key — he is running statewide to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl in a state Democrats are trying to turn competitive. Jones is the only outlier, and he’s famously contrarian.
These are real cracks in the Republican coalition while for once the Democrats have none. And you see evidence of that in Harry Reid’s steely insistence that John Boehner bend to his will and in President Obama’s confident demands.
“I’m calling on the Speaker and the House Republican leadership to bring up the senate bill for a vote,” he said at the White House today. And by that he means a real vote.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.