As gently as he could, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) just called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to cave and pass the Senate’s payroll tax cut compromise.
But make no mistake: McConnell has essentially pulled the rug out from under his counterparts in the House as the political price Republicans are paying for reneging on the deal struck with Democrats has steepened dramatically.
Read the full statement below, but the key is here:
“Leader Reid should appoint conferees on the long-term bill and the House should pass an extension that locks in the thousands of Keystone XL pipeline jobs, prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions.”
McConnell’s statement gives Boehner’s wiggle room to pass some slightly modified version of the Senate’s already-passed two-month extension. But Boehner’s refusal to pass any temporary legislation is why Congress is stalemated in the first place.
So he’ll have to cave. The development comes not a moment too soon for vulnerable House and Senate Republicans, who worried their election prospects would collapse if the GOP was held accountable for allowing the payroll tax (along with unemployment insurance and Medicare physician reimbursements) to lapse Jan. 1.
McConnell’s proposal is designed to give both sides cover — but his own party’s cover would be negligee thin. Typically House and Senate negotiators in conference committees iron out the differences between two bills. But if the House passes the Senate compromise bill (or something nearly identical to it) there won’t be two bills to conference — one will become law. In other words, all Harry Reid has to do is greenlight negotiations he’s already agreed to on a year-long payroll tax cut extension and Boehner will tip his king.
At a Capitol press conference Thursday morning, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) sidestepped the chance to offer a snap reaction — except to note that it’s unlikely McConnell is speaking for Boehner here.
Here’s the full statement.
The House and Senate have both passed bipartisan bills to require the President to quickly make a decision on whether to support thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs through the Keystone XL pipeline, and to extend unemployment insurance, the temporary payroll tax cut and seniors’ access to medical care. There is no reason why Congress and the President cannot accomplish all of these things before the end of the year. House Republicans sensibly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms. These goals are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both. Working Americans have suffered enough from the President’s failed economic policies and shouldn’t face the uncertainty of a New Year’s Day tax hike. Leader Reid should appoint conferees on the long-term bill and the House should pass an extension that locks in the thousands of Keystone XL pipeline jobs, prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions.
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.