House Speaker John Beohner's plan to extend the payroll tax cut without paying for it has inflamed some rank-and-file Republicans, and Senate Democrats are adding fuel to the fire. The Monday calculation by Boehner along with Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Majority Leader Eric Cantor was to capitulate to Democrats on the payroll tax extension and fight them over the extension of jobless benefits in a separate legislative showdown. But Senate Democrats have another plan in mind that would lump the provisions together despite protestations from the House.
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Following Monday's announcement to extend the payroll tax cut for 10-months and add $100 billion to the deficit, Senate Democrats made Talking Point Memo's Brian Beutler privy to a parliamentary trick to trap the GOP into even more of a capitulation than House GOP leaders intended. Since Democrats are determined to extend unemployment insurance (UI), a payroll tax and a patch to Medicare's physician reimbursements, they will simply add those provisions in an amendment to the House's stand-alone payroll tax cut bill.
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That wasn't what Republicans had in mind, as The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer explained immediately following Boehner's announcement. "By separating the payroll tax from jobless benefits, Republicans have somewhat boxed in Democrats, forcing them to decide whether to accept a stand-alone tax cut that touches nearly all working Americans — and is generally more popular than the additional unemployment insurance — or hold out for a package that covers all three programs, at a cost of about $160 billion."
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Now, the thinking by Senate Democrats is, as The Washington Post's Ezra Klein explains, "If Republicans want to block a tax cut for all Americans because they're offended by the idea of helping the unemployed and keeping grandma's doctor from taking a 30 percent pay cut and fleeing the Medicare program, let them."
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For Boehner, the trouble is that he's already facing animosity from rank-and-file Republicans without even considering the plan by Senate Democrats. As Politico's Manu Raju and Jake Sherman report, Republicans are incensed because the extension undercuts their attacks on President Obama regarding his piling up of government debt:
Added Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a former House GOP leader: “I think the whole policy is a bad policy.” Another former House member, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, said: “The idea of not paying for it is kind of a new thing in our caucus. It really hadn’t been discussed.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said GOP leaders were “trapped.”
... One conservative Republican mused about a primary challenge for voting for something that adds $100 billion to the deficit. Another said the party, after harping all year about the troubled Social Security trust fund, is now proposing to “rob it blind.”
It appears Senate Democrats, by telegraphing their plan to reporters, have put Beohner in a difficult position. Will House Republicans agree to this plan now, knowing what Senate Democrats have in mind?