Dems falling into line on tax deal?

posted at 9:30 am on December 9, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

The progressive wing of the Democratic Party may well have gone into revolt this week over the tax deal Barack Obama cut with the GOP, but the rebellion on Capitol Hill seems to be subsiding.  More Democrats in both chambers of Congress have decided to throw their support to the deal, publicly as well as privately, even including some progressives.  Harry Reid signaled victory for the White House by putting the bill on this week’s agenda, perhaps as soon as today:

A wave of new Democratic support Wednesday signaled that President Barack Obama’s deal to renew the Bush tax cuts would make it through Congress, as long as most Republicans lined up behind it as expected.

With Democrats in both chambers still angry about parts of the package, the administration scrambled to allay concerns and build momentum for the unusual deal with congressional Republicans reached this week. By the end of the day, the measure looked increasingly likely to pass, as Democrats stepped forward one by one to back it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he hopes to begin consideration of the bill as early as Thursday — a sign that the measure will receive a filibuster-proof majority.

And in the House, high-decibel liberal complaints were countered by a silent minority of Blue Dogs, New Democrats and even a handful of veteran liberals who said outright that they would vote for the bill or hinted strongly in private that they were leaning in that direction.

Progressives carry more weight in the House than the Senate, mainly because of the number of vulnerable members in the upper chamber looking pessimistically at their chances in 2012.  They could possibly convince Nancy Pelosi to keep the bill off of the floor, but that looks unlikely now.  Politico reports that progressives in the House have worked their way through the five stages of grief and now accept that they will have to vote on the deal, and that it will likely pass.

Obama dispatched Joe Biden to Capitol Hill to smooth as many ruffled feathers as possible, but as The Hill and Andrew Malcolm note, also to deliver another message:

As usual, transparent Joe’s meetings were closed. But there was reportedly much back-slapping, hand-waving (see photo above) and elbow-cupping by the man who was a senator before most House members ever thought of tinting the gray out of their hair.

In a two-hour session with departing SpeakerNancy Pelosi’s flustered flock, Biden delivered the firm news from the boss of them all: “It’s up or down,” he told them[.]

The word after was that it was an “honest” discussion, which generally means that the team got told bluntly what the White House expects of them:

Vice President Biden told House Democrats on Wednesday that the tax agreement the White House struck with Republicans was essentially final, forcing the divided caucus to decide whether to press its fight for changes in the package.

“It’s up or down,” Biden told the caucus in a closed-door meeting, according to Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.).

“So far as the administration is concerned, it’s take it or leave it,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), one of the most vocal critics of the tax deal, told The Hill after the meeting. “I would say [Biden] was pretty specific about that.”

That doesn’t mean the mischief is over:

“There remain very serious reservations on the House side, and there’s still a serious question about whether this package can pass in the form it’s in now,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who had been the chief House Democratic negotiator on the tax talks before the White House cut its own deal with Republicans.

“Many members of the caucus are still very concerned — as am I,” added Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). “Right now, it’s very unsettled in the caucus.”

Van Hollen is one of the reasons why Obama had to cut its own deal with the GOP.  On November 18th, the White House leaked yesterday, Obama’s meeting with Congressional Democratic leadership went so badly that Obama realized that nothing would get done before the end of the year.  If Van Hollen and his team could have found the nerve to actually work with the GOP, Obama wouldn’t have had to be in this position.

It seems, though, that the momentum has pushed past Van Hollen, Pelosi, and the cadre of progressive authoritarians that have run the lower chamber for the last four years.  Perhaps the rest of the Democratic caucus might take a lesson from this and find new leadership.


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