Dems pull tax-deal rule off House floor after liberal revolt

The Senate passed its version of the tax deal by a wide margin this week, but in the House, the plan appears to be in jeopardy.  Democratic leadership had to pull the rule governing the debate on the bill after liberals in their caucus revolted and threatened to send it to a defeat.  One Democrat called it a “speed bump,” but as of yet the road to passage has not opened:

A final House vote on President Obama’s tax proposal could be delayed after Democratic leaders were forced to pull a procedural measure off the House floor Thursday.

The House was set to vote on the rule governing debate on the broad tax bill, but the measure was withdrawn at the last minute when leaders realized it was likely to be rejected. Liberals opposed to the deal Obama struck with Republicans were upset that the procedure approved by the House Rules Committee on Wednesday did not allow them a clean opportunity to vote on the legislation the Senate passed on Wednesday. A final vote on the tax deal had been planned for Thursday evening.

“We’re just trying to work out some kinks,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a floor manager for the tax bill, told reporters. He characterized the decision to pull the procedural measure off the floor as “a bump” and said he did not think the House would have to delay a final vote past Thursday. Yet he said it was unclear what the next move was and said Democratic leaders were huddling over how to proceed.

Ironically, this resulted from an attempt to “deem-and-pass” the tax deal.  The rule would have allowed an amendment for the sake of altering the estate-tax portion of the deal Barack Obama cut with the GOP; had it then passed, the House would have deemed the rest of the deal to have passed as well and sent the amendment to the Senate. If not, then the House would have held a clean vote on the Senate bill.

Unfortunately for Nancy Pelosi, her progressive caucus wanted a chance to vote against the entire deal rather than take a face-saving way out.  That would have meant another attempt at resuscitating the Obama deal from scratch or nearly so, at least in the Rules Committee.  The Boss Emeritus reports that the House could also try amending the rule on the House floor, but that might be a difficult maneuver if Pelosi’s caucus remains split on proceeding.

Most expect the deal to pass without changes in the end, but at the moment, how Pelosi gets to the end is difficult to see.  If Pelosi can’t get the deal passed, it will result in a massive tax increase on January 1, which will be entirely the fault of Democratic obstructionism, as well as an indication of presidential impotence.  The pressure to avoid both consequences will probably be enough to push it through to adoption.