Defying President Obama, House Democrats voted Thursday not to bring up the tax package that he negotiated with Republicans in its current form.
“This message today is very simple: That in the form that it was negotiated, it is not acceptable to the House Democratic caucus. It’s as simple as that,” said Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen.
“We will continue to try and work with the White House and our Republican colleagues to try and make sure we do something right for the economy and right for jobs, and a balanced package as we go forward,” he said…
The vote also come less than an hour after Obama himself urged Congress to pass the compromise he struck with GOP leaders earlier this week and warned that failing to do it could cost jobs.
According to the Hill, it’s the estate tax rate that’s the sticking point, not the income tax rate extension for the wealthy. As humiliating as it is to have his own caucus flip him the bird, though, I’m not sure this is so terrible for The One. It depends on whether Pelosi follows the caucus’s wishes and refuses to bring the deal to the floor or whether, as the Daily Caller claims, this is a symbolic gesture by House progressives aimed at showing Obama how badly they want changes. If Pelosi holds a vote on it anyway, the bill would likely still pass thanks to a coalition of Blue Dogs and Republicans, which in turn would give Obama both a legislative victory and a little bipartisan juice that he needs for 2012. In fact, I wonder if there’s an element of kabuki to it, with Pelosi urging her allies to vote no on the proposal in the caucus meeting to generate some political cover knowing full well that she intends to bring it to the floor anyway.
Still, it’s always jolly fun to see Democrats arguing in public. If my read on this feels like a bit of a buzzkill, no worries: Read this excellent Sean Trende piece making the case for why the deal is a political loser for Obama long-term. Clinton could get away with triangulation in the 90s because the lefty base at the time thought conservatism was still going strong and were reluctant to weaken him by opposing him. They don’t believe that anymore — last month’s results notwithstanding — so they may be willing to take chances with The One that they wouldn’t have dared take 15 years ago. Today’s caucus vote might be an early indicator of that. Long live the myth of the Great Liberal Realignment!
Update: Uh oh — looks like this is more than mere symbolism after all. Your move, Barry.
Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said that “this means we will not bring this [agreement] to the floor as is. It has to be changed.”
Daly would not outline what revisions House Democrats specifically are seeking, but he did say that Pelosi would stand by today’s caucus resolution…
Asked whether Pelosi would bring up the package over the objections of her Democratic colleagues, Miller suggested that wouldn’t happen without further consultions with rank-and-file lawmakers.
That last bit sounds like there’s at least a slim chance that she’ll bring the bill to the floor as is, but her spokesman sounds adamant. Oh well — looks like instead of being one of the last bills of the Pelosi Congress, it’ll be one of the first of the Boehner Congress. Have fun explaining to Americans why a deal blessed by a Democratic president and a Republican congressional leadership can’t be done before New Year’s, liberals.
Update: Meanwhile, a day after Larry Summers warned of a double-dip recession if the deal fails, Obama ups the economic ante:
“The average American family will start 2011 knowing that there will be more money to pay the bills each month, more money to pay for tuition, more money to raise their children,” Obama said from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, “But if this framework fails, the reverse is true. Americans would see it in smaller paychecks that would have the effect of fewer jobs. So as we meet here today to talk about one important facet of our economic strategy for the future, I urge members of Congress to move forward on this essential priority.”
Pelosi’s going to let the tax cuts lapse with that quote, from her own party’s leader, hanging over her head? Please.
Update: Man, this just gets better and better. From CNN’s Ed Henry:
Senior Dem adviser to WH tells me strategy now: Sen Dems use another bill already passed by House, add new tax deal, send back to House
Dem adviser says then WH would try to “jam the House” and have Pelosi vote on updated bill — but will Pelosi be jammed?
Can she afford to cave after having her bluff called that way? Remember, her big selling point to the (even more liberal) caucus in running for minority leader was that she’d stand up to Obama and keep him honest when it comes to defending progressive principles.
Update: Evidently Barney’s not as convinced of Pelosi’s resolve as her own spokesman is. Quote:
“I still think it’s going to go through—why do you think it isn’t?” Frank said in a Thursday interview outside the caucus meeting. “I always knew a majority of Democrats would be against it. I still think they have the votes for it, yeah.” He added that House Democrats simply lacked the ability to have a major impact on the legislation: “I think the notion that the caucus controls legislation is not a good one.”
Frank emphasized that he still opposed the tax-cut bargain but nevertheless thought a vote should be held on the tax package as it currently stands. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to decide herself whether to bring the legislation to a vote on the House floor—a decision that many House Dems at the caucus meeting suggested was up in the air. But Frank was convinced that Pelosi would bring the president’s tax deal forward: “I think she will have to, yeah.”