Congressional Republicans have been in disarray since the President cranked up the pressure to extend the payroll tax cut before it expires this month, with some leaders swearing that Republicans really really would like to extend it but not if it means multimillionaires have to pay a penny more in taxes, and others undercutting that claim by arguing that it would be better if taxes went up in the middle class next year since what we should be doing is cutting taxes for multimillionaires anyway.
Senate GOP leaders have already failed twice to get their own caucus to support their own version of a payroll tax cut, severely weakening their negotiating leverage.
And House leaders were struggling to come up with bill that their own members would support. But today they appeared to find a solution to appease the "tax the middle class" caucus -- propose a joke bill that has nothing to do with helping the middle class and will never become law.
As The Hill reported, what got House Republicans to agree to back a bill that includes an extend middle class cut was not a new way to offset the cost, but a provision designed to force the President to approve the controversial pipeline to the Canadian tar sands. Once the President pledged to veto any bill that had such unrelated provisions in it, the pro-middle class tax caucus could safely get on board.
(Also, the House bill would cut the current time the jobless can receive unemployment insurance -- at a time when the number of jobless vastly outstrips the number of job openings -- from 99 weeks to 59 weeks. By depriving people of money to spend on necessities, Repubkicans would cut demand and kill jobs.)
This only papers over the reality that much of the Republican Party simply believes that taxes on the middle class and the poor should go up and taxes on ther wealthy should go down.
And more that cruel, bizarre and untenable view is understood by the public, the harder it will be for the relatively saner Republicans to keep their usual obstructionist united front.
The Democrats maintain their strong hand. The Keystone pipeline is not some killer wedge issue. For one, most folks don't know what it is. Two, most folks aren't angling for one of the handful of jobs the project would create.
And most importantly, no one is going buy that Republicans are so adamant about creating a few thousand jobs when they have repeatedly obstructed bipartisan proposals that would create millions of jobs.
Democrats should persist in holding the line. Republicans are still on the verge of cracking.