Democrats turn tables on GOP as Boehner relents on payroll-tax deal
House Speaker John Boehner agreed to let the Senate's payroll-tax deal come to the floor for a vote, where it is expected to pass Friday. It was a rare win in a tough year for Democrats.
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After the debt-ceiling crisis in August, “We saw a big drop in several measures,” he adds. “Economic confidence dropped nearly 20 points. Faith in Congress is so low now it’s discouraging in a democracy.” In a survey of the perceived honesty of various professions, Congress ranked dead last with lobbyists and car salesmen.
Boehner appeared to recognize that shift in public mood. In a two-hour conference call on Saturday, Boehner called the Senate bill to extend expiring measures a victory. But conservatives strongly objected. They called on Boehner to reject the Senate’s two-month extension and hold the line for the one-year House extension, including approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and a reduction of unemployment benefits from 99 to 59 weeks.
The House on Tuesday voted, 229 to 193, to reject the Senate bill and hold out for a new negotiation with the Senate over a one-year extension. But this time, Senate Democrats had resolved not to cave.
“Republicans and Democrats already negotiated an agreement and there is no time and no need to haggle over this any further,” says Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
Even the editorial board of conservative-leaning The Wall Street Journal turned against them, dubbing GOP strategy over the expiring payroll-tax cuts “a fiasco.” Provoking a crisis over an expiring tax cut affecting 160 million Americans was a tough sell. Most Americans supported extending the payroll-tax cut. By rejecting a Senate bill to extend those cuts, House Republicans, for the first time, appeared to be on the side of a tax hike.
Democrats saw the payroll tax clash as an opportunity to end a disappointing year on offense."It was opportunistic," says analyst Mr. Collender. “Shortly after the debt-ceiling fight in August was the point at which 'no' for Democrats started to be an acceptable answer."
Until that point, Democrats were “reflecting the president,” he adds. “The president was trying to compromise, but each time they found that House Republicans kept raising the bar, and they were getting hurt with their base by appearing to be weak.”
But with the sharp turn in public-approval ratings after the debt-ceiling debacle, Democrats grew bolder in opposition and, in the end, left House GOP leaders no place to go but over a cliff.
“Support for Congress in general is close to its lowest point ever. Republicans are generally getting blamed for that, and support for the tea party is at its lowest point since the 2010 election. Put that together, and what’s the down side for Democrats in taking a strong position?” Collender adds.
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