Top Democrats pulled a little stunt Friday morning, when they tried to upend the House’s pro forma session to confer about and debate the payroll tax cut.
But in their remarks to the press afterward, they parlayed today’s positive jobs figures into a serious political warning to the GOP: Don’t threaten the recovery by playing games with the economy. In essence, today’s positive economic news raised the stakes of the payroll tax cut fight — if Republicans can’t get their act together and the tax cut lapses, it will muffle the recovery just as it’s finally starting to turn economist’s heads.
“Let’s get back, let’s finish the job, let’s make sure that we keep this fragile recovery moving,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) told reporters in the Capitol Friday, flanked by party leaders and payroll tax cut negotiators.
Republican rank and file members are still steamed that House GOP leaders caved and passed a temporary payroll tax cut extension. But it’s unclear whether they’ll allow that anger to drive their party toward brinkmanship over a full year extension of the payroll tax cut, or whether they’ll accede to political reality and allow the payroll tax cut to be renewed in February without a huge fight over extraneous policy riders, and if or how to pay for it. Dems put them on notice today that if they muck this up, they’ll be held accountable for the economic consequences.
“The work was not completed last year,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “It was not completed last year because…many of even the conferees, in addition to the members of the Republican caucus, did not support a payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans…. And then they used the excuse that it wasn’t long enough. I told some of you it was like yogi berra talking about a restaurant: ‘I don’t like the food there, it isn’t any good, and besides the portions are too small.’”
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.