Crunch time: Dems ready to proceed on tax cuts bill -- with outcome uncertain

Robert Costa at NRO has a status report. Remember, Pelosi screwed up earlier this afternoon by agreeing to let an amendment on the estate tax provisions come to the floor via a procedural rule that would have deemed the entire tax cuts package passed if the amendment passed. House liberals would have had no opportunity to register their opposition to the overall package, which was a dealbreaker for them. So, back to the drawing board for a new scheme:

House Democrats say there will likely be a total of four votes tonight related to the tax bill:

1) A vote to amend the existing rule to include a simple up-or-down vote on the tax deal.

2) A vote on the rule itself

3) A vote on the Pomeroy amendment, which would increase estate tax rates from the levels in the Senate bill.

4) A vote on final passage of the bill.

The first vote undoes Pelosi’s screw-up, the second one allows the House to proceed on the legislation, and then come the votes on the amendment and the final bill. I’m not sure of the schedule yet, but you might want to turn on C-SPAN now to make sure you watch vote number three on the estate tax when it happens. If that somehow passes, all hell’s going to break loose, starting in the Oval Office. No Republican in the Senate will agree to a further estate tax hike — I think — which means the deal will be effectively dead and the White House will be left flailing for a new compromise. Since every last Democrat in the House knows that and knows the stakes for Obama if the amendment passes, I’m guessing that they won’t let it pass. Which shouldn’t be too difficult: Virtually the entire GOP caucus will vote no, which means they’ll only need 45 or so Blue Dogs to defeat Pomeroy’s bill and proceed to the final vote. In fact, after all the recent polling showing public support for the deal and the lopsided vote in the Senate to pass it, I haven’t heard anyone say over the last few days that they expect the final bill to fail. That being so, how could the estate tax amendment possibly pass? Voting yes on that is tantamount to voting no on the final bill.

One worrisome note for supporters of the deal, though. According to Louise Slaughter (via Costa), even if they had followed Pelosi’s screwy procedures this afternoon, House liberals would have been granted a vote on the final bill to register their displeasure had Pomeroy’s estate tax amendment failed. Only if the amendment had passed would the overall bill be deemed passed too and sent immediately to the Senate. That being so, why would House liberals throw a fit over it? Do they … expect the estate tax amendment to pass? The One must be wetting his pants right now. Reason enough to tune into C-SPAN, or watch here online. Exit question: By all accounts, most of the House GOP caucus is still in favor of the bill notwithstanding Peter DeFazio’s claim yesterday that Obama thinks his presidency’s riding on it. If, as expected, the bill passes with more Republican votes than Democratic ones, can the media finally drop the “party of no” crap? A party dedicated to obstructing Obama just to obstruct him could kill this whole thing with a unified caucus vote. Instead, the GOP’s likely to be his lifeline here. And not just on this issue, either.

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