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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 03:28 PM ET, 12/22/2011

Cracks in the dam?

Updated below.

Things are moving very quickly now. Two House GOPers — both freshmen, both vulnerable, both from competitive districts, both facing real Dem challengers — just called on the Republican leadership to relent and allow a straight vote on the Senate payroll tax cut extension plan.

Here’s the statement from Rep Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, a real up and comer among the House GOP freshmen:

“I still believe middle class families would be better served by the certainty of a one-year payroll tax holiday, but this isn’t about proving a point. This is about preventing hardworking Wisconsin families from paying an extra $40 a week for the dysfunction in Washington DC.
“That’s why today I’m calling on GOP Leadership to immediately bring up the Senate’s two-month extension for an up or down vote. Middle class families deserve a Congress that will rise above the squabbling and ensure their taxes don’t go up right after Christmas.”

And here’s the key nugget from a letter Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas just sent to Speaker Boehner, specifically citing his constituents’ anger as a reason that it’s time to allow the vote on the Senate plan:

These past few days I have met with my constituents in Arkansas’s First District, they are angry and they don’t understand why Congress cannot sit down, hammer out our differences, and have a solution we can all support. My constituents are honest, hard-working people who deserve a Congress that will put partisan politics aside in favor of the greater good. Congress must come together and act to ensure that my constituents, and millions of Americans all across the country, are not hit with higher taxes on January 1st...
We are now in a position that requires all options to be on the table, that requires Republicans to not only demand a willingness to compromise, but to offer it as well.

That’s telling stuff: Crawford’s claim that his constituents are angry at Congress for failing to break through the gridlock — and that this is why House Republicans need to signal a willingness to compromise — suggests again that the public is concluding that Republicans are the ones to blame for allowing the tax hike creep ever closer to reality.

These vulnerable freshmen want a chance to vote in favor of the Senate plan. If more start coming out with statements like this, the situation could snowball very quickly. Keep in mind that only two dozen or so House Republicans need to support the Senate extension for it to pass the House with overwhelming Democratic support. If House Republicans were hoping to gain leverage this week, this suggests the opposite may be happening as House Republicans return to their districts and hear from constituents.

If these two Congressmen are representative, then vulnerable House Republicans in similarly tough districts may feel like they’re being left dangling over the abyss by the GOP leadership’s current course. If that’s a widespread sentiment at this point, it’s hard to see how much longer this will last.

UPDATE: A Senate Dem aide emails:

They caved. They will pass our bill with small technical correx. We will appoint conferees as we have always been willing to do, but as usual the real action will happen elsewhere. No date certain for committee action.

If true, that means that Dems have agreed to enter formal conference negotiations on the longer term bill, rather than have it negotiated on the staff level. That’s what Republicans wanted, but Dems had always said they wanted to negotiated the longer-term version after the short term one passed.

By  |  03:28 PM ET, 12/22/2011

 
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