Using a wily procedural maneuver to tie Republican hands, House Democrats managed to pass, by a vote of 234-188, legislation that will allow the Bush tax cuts benefiting only the wealthiest Americans to expire.
Democrats were not united on the issue. Twenty voted with Republicans to kill the tax cut bill, as they hold out for extending additional cuts to wealthy Americans — though 3 Republicans, including Reps. Ron Paul (TX) and Walter Jones (NC) voted for the tax cut extensions. However the outcome will (and was designed to) allow Democrats to draw distinctions between themselves and Republicans during the 2012 election cycle.
President Obama endorsed the plan many months ago, and continues to support it. But divisions within his party, the White House’s soft push, and the new political reality after the November election have made it highly unlikely that this legislation will become law. It would need to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, and Democrats lack the 60 votes they’d need to do that.
The spin on this is that the Democrats can now say that for all their talk about being in favor of tax cuts, all but three Republicans voted against tax cuts — or, put it another way, they voted in favor of tax hikes on January 1, which would be what happened if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire.
Incoming House Speaker John Boehner called it “chicken crap,” but that’s just because he got out-maneuvered on it; if the roles had been reversed, he’d be the one, to continue the metaphor, to be crowing about how the Republicans out-Foxed the Democrats to do the will of the people and push through a permanent extension of all the tax cuts, including the ones for the squire set. (According to a poll by CBS, most voters don’t approve of the GOP plan, but that never stopped them from telling the voters what they really want is what they say they want.)
It now moves on to the Senate where the GOP will filibuster the hell out of it. The Democrats’ plan is to get them on the record as being against the tax cuts as much as possible just to embarrass them, but since the GOP has proven time and again to be incapable of that particular feeling, it will be just for show. After all, the Republicans have no problem whatsoever in holding up important business just to make a political point. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) basically said when he stated that he would drop his objections to the New Start treaty if the Democrats caved on taxes and the budget. So all of his talk about concerns about the treaty were just chicken crap; he just wanted leverage. What a shock.
I still think that the Democrats can screw this up; heretofore they have proved that that is one area where they have no peer. But if they can somehow manage to pull this off — and get unemployment benefits extended, too — then perhaps they’ll turn chicken crap into chicken salad.