“The House Republicans’ initial rejection of this two-month extension was therefore correct on principle and on policy. But this was absolutely the wrong place, the wrong time, to plant the flag. Once Senate Republicans overwhelmingly backed the temporary extension, that part of the fight was lost. Opposing it became kamikaze politics.

“Note the toll it is already taking on Republicans. For three decades Republicans owned the tax issue. Today, Obama leads by five points, a 12-point swing since just early October. The payroll tax ploy has even affected his overall approval rating, now up five points (in six weeks) to 49 percent.

“The Democrats set a trap and the Republicans walked right into it

“The GOP’s performance nicely reprises that scene in ‘Animal House’ where the marching band turns into a blind alley and row after row of plumed morons plows into a brick wall, crumbling to the ground in an unceremonious heap.”

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“Boehner knew the year-end fight to renew the payroll tax would be bad — but he couldn’t possibly have anticipated how bad it would get. Obama always knew the fight would be good for him — but not this good. It got the president not only the tax cut he wanted but provided a jolt for Democrats anxious about 2012 who felt Obama had been played by House Republicans in earlier negotiations…

“‘A core part of a president’s leadership is his ability to show he’s in charge and that he’s leading, rather than being led,’ said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the White House. ‘One problem for him in the first two years is that he had to run with Congress because it was controlled by Democrats, and too often it seemed that they were pulling him rather than he was leading them.

“‘Now, he has stared down the House GOP and they have capitulated, showing that he’s in charge.’…

“Plenty of House Republicans, many of them freshmen, are hopping mad.”

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“‘I don’t think there’s a revolt with respect to Speaker Boehner,” [Rep. Trey] Gowdy said Thursday night on Fox’s ‘Your World With Neil Cavuto.’ ‘I think the license tag of the truck that just ran over us has Kentucky license tags. For the life of me, I cannot understand when the Senate is going to find something they care enough about to stand on policy and principle.’…

“Some have speculated that the payroll tax debate has irreparably harmed Boehner’s Speakership, and that he has lost control of his caucus to a Tea Party faction

“‘We didn’t have a comment section to our conference call,’ Gowdy said, referring to a Thursday conference call in which Boehner informed Republicans they should concede to the Senate-passed bill. ‘We typically do, where we can ask questions and register complaints. That wasn’t an option this afternoon. It probably means we’d still be on the phone call, if he’d opened it up to questions.'”

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“House leaders have done what they have not really done before, and that is attempting to jam their own members. And, having accepted a series of concessions to move forward on this issue, conservative members are in no mood to be forgiving.

“The big complaint is the way the announcement was handled. Having been sent away on Wednesday with promises that leaders would stay and fight the good fight, members got on a conference call Friday to be told that the deal was done. Again, the policies are relatively unimportant, but the presentation and posture are the problem.

“‘I was like ‘Is this Nancy Pelosi?” one GOP freshman told Power Play. ‘That we would be dictated to on this was just unbelievable. It felt like a betrayal.’

“That freshman said he would not be returning to blockade the vote, saying he would let the deal go through ‘because [they] already lost the war,’ and others who say they would come back to object live too far away to have flown back and made it to the floor by mid-morning to block the bill.”

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“Boehner told his troops Monday that he wanted to find a way to ‘vote yes’ on the payroll-tax cut to fend off critics who would accuse Republicans of being Grinch-like at Christmas time.

“Cantor, however, advocated repeatedly for voting down the Senate’s amended package. That, he argued, would send a message that the House won’t accept a take-it-or-leave-it approach to governing, lawmakers said…

“Still, rank-and-file members grumbled that Boehner could have avoided the entire dust-up — and other such incidents — if he wasn’t so concerned with “making everyone happy,” a GOP lawmaker told The Hill.

“‘John is a guy that leads by trying to get a consensus … ‘Is it OK if I do this? Is it OK if I do that?’ … But you can’t do that and be a leader,’ the member said.”

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“Flush from last night’s victory, Harry Reid floated the possibility at a press conference this morning that Dems could revive the idea of a millionaire surtax when the talks begin over the year long payroll tax cut extension next year.

“‘I’ve talked to Senate Republicans, plural, who think there should be a fair tax on rich people,’ Reid said. ‘I’m going to make sure that my conferees understand that this could be part of what we try to do.’…

“[A]nother round of ‘class warfare’ might be advisable for Dems to venture. After all, Republicans won’t hesitate from starting from a position that’s unacceptable to Democrats — more spending cuts and conditions attached to unemployment insurance, to name two. Republicans are now on record insisting that a full year extension is a must, and they’ve insisted that it be paid for. So why shouldn’t Dems stake out a hard line of their own?”

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“President Barack Obama has options to kill or delay the Canada-to-Texas oil sands pipeline despite language in the payroll tax bill that forces him to make a decision on a permit by late February…

“If Obama decides the pipeline is not in the national interest, ‘it would effectively be the end of the project,’ said Johnston, although TransCanada would likely still move forward with a smaller leg of the pipeline from the Cushing, Oklahoma oil hub to Texas.

“Even if Obama approves it within 60 days, he could do so conditionally by declaring the project is in the national interest, but contingent on the completion of the State Department’s study on alternative routes through Nebraska.”

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“Under our Constitution, you usually have to win more than one election to make enduring changes in public policy. Democrats were able to make some major changes in policy after winning historic majorities in 2006 and 2008 (Democrats won their highest percentages of the vote for House of Representatives in the 36 non-Southern states in history in those elections). Even so, they were unable to pass some major bills, including the unions’ card check bill and a cap and trade bill. Republicans now want to make major changes in policy, including repeal of Obamacare, sharp cutbacks in federal spending and long-term fixes for entitlements programs. They have made some headway in Congress, but not as much as they would like.

“In order to achieve the policy results they seek, Republicans need to win in 2012 by proportions roughly comparable to their margins in 2010. The House Republicans elected in 2010 should not be dispirited by its failure to achieve many of their goals. What they are presenting is not the final version of a play, but an audition. In those circumstances it is foolish to engage in maneuvers, like the rejection of the Senate payroll tax cut compromise, which while justifiable in policy terms make no sense politically. Avoiding such fiascos is not a betrayal of constitutional principle. It is acting in the spirit of the Constitution, which requires continued affirmation from the voters before major policy changes can be made.”

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“So maybe that’s what the American people need to understand. It’s about time that we take a chance with some of the young leaders that we have sent to Washington DC and move away from this establishment rhetoric and this game that they play in Washington DC.”

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