Moments ago, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 229-193 to walk away from a bipartisan compromise that would have extended for two months both the payroll tax cut for 160 million working Americans and long-term unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans, as well as stopped automatic cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors that are scheduled for Jan. 1, 2012. Seven Republicans joined every Democrat in opposing the motion to abandon the Senate’s compromise plan and instead move to a House-Senate conference committee.
As TP notes, this already passed the Senate 89-10. So this is something a lot of Republicans in the Senate want. And word is that Speaker Boehner gave Mitch McConnell the go ahead to negotiate a deal with Dems with the assumption Boehner would get it through the House. But the tea partiers don't want it so Boehner backed down. I can think of a few reasons why this happened.
One is the uncertainty argument. Matt Yglesias addressed this concern voiced by a Republican. Its plausible. But I'm not buying it. Since when has uncertainty ever prevented Republicans from supporting a tax cut? And what about the uncertainty generated by people's taxes going up and the prospects of a new administration coming to power in the next year? I just pointed out why the uncertainty argument is largely overblown to begin with. But still, if this is their reason its pretty weak and probably just an excuse to oppose Obama and Dems simply for the sake of doing so.
And that is another reason, obstruction simply for the sake of obstruction. These people haven't been very interested in governing from day 1. They hate Obama, Dems, and the idea that gov't should do anything constructive aside from shooting and bombing people. So even though they are similar to more mainstream Republicans in their love of tax cuts, this hostility towards governing trumps that goal. I think this is part of it. But I'm not sure its all of it because I'm sure there is an example of this group voting for something half way constructive.
Yet another reason could be that this is just the wrong type of tax cut, one that isn't aimed at the rich, those real Americans who work hard to generate all of the jobs for the rest of us and generate the wealth that trickles down for the rest of us to enjoy. Maybe they really just don't understand or care about the reason behind extending these tax cuts. IIRC, they did also threaten to not extend the Bush tax cuts unless the top rates were included in the extension. And just think if income tax rates for the rich were part of this extension. Could you see them blocking it in the same manner they are now? I think its a lot less likely they would.
But I still don't know if they would or not. That just speaks to how out there this group of Republicans are. Its bad enough they endorse ridiculous policies. But now that they have some influence we don't know what to expect. They can't even be counted on to do participate in basic governance. Frankly, I'm surprised we haven't come closer to shutting down the gov't. And I don't think I'm the only one who is stumped by these Republicans. Andrew Sullivan has a post on how Congress is polling and it basically shows that this is the least popular Congress in recorded history. But people trust the Democrats and Obama more than Republicans. And its the higher income people who still trust Republicans. With actions like the one they took today its no wonder the polling says what it does.
Update: Ezra Klein explains the situation. He says House Republicans want more in exchange for agreeing to the deal, meaning something about the Keystone pipeline and other things. I think this is the most plausible explanation. Its not that House Republicans don't want to govern, like I suggested. Its that they want every single policy passed that they support. And they will hijack any bill regardless of what it has to do with the policies that are on their agenda.