House Speaker John Boehner has finally learned that if he wants to get something done he has to stop trying to please his own Republican majority.
Here is the House roll call, 293-132, extending the payroll tax cut through 2012. Unemployment benefits were extended, too, though not for as long as Democrats wanted, and the Medicare “doc fix” was made, eliminating a drastic cut in Medicare reimbursements.
You’ll note that the measure received slightly more votes from Democrats (147) than from Republicans (146), and that more than twice as many Republicans (91) as Democrats (41) voted against. In the Senate, the bill passed 60-36, with only 14 Republicans voting in favor. As has occurred a few times before, the bill received almost no support from the Senate leadership. This time Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was the only one to vote aye. Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Republican Conference Chair John Thune, Republican Policy Committee Chair John Barrasso, and Republican Conference Vice-Chair all voted nay. (By contrast, in the House the bill had the support of the entire GOP leadership.)
In a way, President Obama gets to have his cake and eat it too. (Or maybe I mean Shimmer Floor Wax?)
He got the payroll tax cut extension and most of the unemployment benefits extension. Although he didn’t get a tax increase on the wealthy to pay for these items, neither did he have to slash spending; in the end there were no major “offsets” at all. (As a consequence, the bill will cost about $89 billion over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)
But Obama also gets to point out that there are still a lot of Republicans who remain unwilling to vote for a tax cut when the beneficiary isn’t a bunch of rich people. In addition to all those House members and Senate leaders, Rick Santorum opposes the payroll tax cut. The other GOP candidates don’t seem to want to talk about it at all. Newt Gingrich apparently told CBS News (through a spokesman) that he “would have found an offset,” but that begs the question of whether he would have supported the payroll tax cut without one. Grover Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reform supported the bill (it is a tax cut after all), but Norquist already granted a papal indulgence to Republicans who voted against; a nay vote doth not violate the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Never mind why not.