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Feeling Schumer's Pain

You've heard a lot about how President Obama's resistance to a confrontation over taxes irked Democrats in the House. But it also irked a lot of Democrats in the Senate. Among them was New York Senator Charles Schumer.

According to a story by Glenn Thrush in Politico, Schumer met with Obama at the White House in November. The goal was to sell Obama on Schumer's plan to extend taxes for everybody making less than $1 million, a compromise that would have been even more difficult for Republicans to oppose. 

Obama wasn't buying:

Obama, according to people briefed on the hourlong one-on-one meeting, was cool and noncommittal, especially when Schumer pitched his pet plan to extend the cuts to families making up to $1 million per year — a move designed to corner Republicans into defending millionaires and billionaires.
The president was considerably more blunt when Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made another trip to the White House a week later, suggesting he simply wasn’t interested in an extended battle with an uncertain result.
Schumer was irked, according to people he’s spoken to subsequently, deeply disappointed and convinced Obama had missed a major opportunity. The White House, in turn, was incensed when it learned Schumer planned to push forward with votes — ultimately unsuccessful — on alternative Democratic proposals.
“The bottom line is that he had a short-term partisan strategy for point scoring that would have been really costly in the long run and for which people would be properly angry,” said a top administration official. “He's a smart guy. This wasn't a smart or practical strategy.”

I was never that wild about Schumer's compromise and, in the end, Obama's deal may be better because he was able to secure a payroll tax holiday and extension of unemployment insurance. (As Jon Chait keeps saying, we really won't know for sure until two years from now, when we see whether the upper income tax cuts get made permanent.) But, more broadly, I'm happy to see Schumer getting aggressive like this. He's a pretty canny pol and he knows how to win a fight. Those skills will come in handy over the next two years.