Crunch time: Mike Pence voting no on the tax cuts deal; Update: House liberals warming to deal?

This is the first time I’ve thought the whole deal really might collapse in the House.

“At the end of the day, I’ve just come to the conclusion: the American people did not vote for more stimulus,” Pence said on conservative talker Sean Hannity’s radio show. “Therefore, I will not vote for this tax deal when it comes to the floor of the House of Representatives.”

Pence joins the ranks of conservatives, many of whom have ties to the Tea Party movement, who have opposed the deal. The Indiana Republican echoed their arguments against the bill; Pence said the 13-month extension of unemployment benefits would only bloat the deficit, and that extending the tax rates for only two years wouldn’t provide adequate certainty in the markets.

With House progressives in revolt, Obama realistically needs all of the Blue Dogs and almost all of the GOP to push this thing through, but I don’t know how much longer House Republicans can hold on. Granted, Paul Ryan, Grover Norquist, and Freedom Works are in favor of the deal, but a whole lot of conservative rock stars on the right are now against it — from Pence to Palin to Bachmann to talk radio to grassroots outfits like the Tea Party Patriots. How many House liberals are willing to bite the bullet and vote yes for Obama’s sake to replace defecting votes on the GOP side? The whole thing’s starting to remind me of the amnesty bill in the Senate in 2007, which looked like it would pass early on and then crumbled as each new provision aimed at attracting hardliners on one side scared off more votes on the other. Maybe this is a simple case of Pence raising the stakes in hopes that it’ll spook House liberals into giving up on their estate tax demands, since the more Republicans peel away, the more frantic the White House will be for the House to approve the Senate bill as is and preserve whatever GOP votes still remain for the deal. If that doesn’t happen and the majority for the bill collapses, though, then … what? Do they pass a bill to extend the income tax rates across the board for two more years and leave the estate tax and payroll tax for the next Congress, where it’ll be even harder to find a compromise? And what happens to the unemployment extension?

Here’s Thune defending his vote for the bill in the Senate and taking a shot at certain unnamed people/presidential rivals for criticizing while on the sidelines because it’s politically expedient. Click the image to watch.

Update: Looks like I spoke too soon about that progressive revolt in the House.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who just a week ago circulated a letter signed by 54 Democrats urging opposition to the deal, now says the “die is cast.”

“It is academic, OK. The bottom line is that it is a fast moving train and that has become clear and Washington is doing what it is finding easy to do,” he said in an interview with The Hill…

Many liberals in the House, possibly already sensing it would be difficult to derail a package with the support of the White House and GOP leaders, did not even sign the Welch letter.

I thought we were looking at 150 or so Republican votes in the House plus 70 or so Democrats, most of whom would be Blue Dogs. Instead, maybe we’re looking at something more on the order of 110 from each side? That leaves Obama with a lot bigger cushion to lose hardliners.

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