The New York Times has an interesting article on the political dynamics of extending middle-class tax cuts. The entire Bush tax cut is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Democrats want to extend the portions that benefit taxpayers earning less than $250,000. Republicans want to extend the entire thing. The question is, can Republicans push their argument for cutting taxes for the rich as well?

Democrats express confidence that Republicans will not kill a bill that benefits most Americans. But some worry that Republicans could delay action by pressing the argument that it would increase taxes for small businesses, discomfiting Democrats with re-election troubles and requiring some Republican votes for a supermajority.

This is the absolute last thing to worry about. First of all, raising taxes on the rich is extremely popular. Second, Republicans have no mechanical leverage. The Democrats get to write the bill. The Republicans can offer an amendment to extend tax cuts for the rich, but they have to come up with a tax hike or spending cut to offset it, which they almost certainly won't do. Even if they do manage to come up with the extensive cost savings required to pay for extending the upper-income Bush tax cuts, Democrats can allow several of their moderates to vote for the amendment if they want and still defeat the amendment.

The "worst case scenario" is that Republicans hold together and filibuster an extension of the Bush tax cuts for people earning under $250,000. That's near inconceivable. And if it did happen, it would be great! Republicans would solve a huge policy problem for the Democrats, and take all the blame for themselves. Democrats could all say they voted for the tax cuts but were stymied by the GOP. It would be a massive win-win. Why on Earth would they fear a Republican "threat" to do this?