I see that some news outlets are already reporting Mitch McConnell’s statement today knocking out the legs from under the House GOP’s payroll tax position as a sign that McConnell is negotiating some kind of middle ground between Senate Dems and House Republicans.
That’s not what happened at all. What actually happened is McConnell explicitly endorsed the Senate Dems’ roadmap forward on the payroll tax cut fight: Pass the two month Senate extension, and negotiate a year-long one later. He sided with Harry Reid against John Boehner.
Here’s Harry Reid’s statement, just out now, calling on Boehner to follow McConnell’s lead and cave:
“I agree with Senator McConnell and the many other Republicans who have spoken up in recent days that the most reasonable path forward is for the House of Representatives to pass the Senate’s bipartisan agreement immediately, to make sure that middle-class families do not wake up to a tax increase on January 1st.
“As I have said since the day we passed the Senate’s bipartisan agreement with 89 votes, including 39 Republicans, my goal has always been to forge a year-long extension of the payroll tax credit, unemployment insurance and Medicare payments for physicians, and Democrats will not rest until we do. We have made good progress towards a year-long extension of all of these programs, but there remain important differences between the two parties.
“Once the House passes the Senate’s bipartisan compromise to hold middle class families harmless while we work out our differences, I will be happy to restart the negotiating process to forge a year-long extension.”
“Now, it is important that we now hear from Speaker Boehner in light of Senator McConnell’s comments.”
This position is identical to the one that Reid articulated yesterday in a letter to Boehner; and it’s also identical to the one McConnell articulated earlier this morning. Some press accounts are already seizing on the fact that McConnell called on Reid to appoint negotiators for talks on a year-long extension as a sign that he’s suggesting a compromise somewhere in between Reid’s and Boehner’s positions.
But look, Reid has already agreed to do this. In his letter to Boehner yesterday, he said that if the House passes the short term extension, Dems will sit down for talks with House Republicans on the year-long extension later. This is indistinguishable from a promise to appoint negotiators. What McConnell called for today is what Reid already proposed. This is also President Obama’s position. So, while it’s true that Dems have already given up some condessions in this fight, if Boehner does take up McConnell’s roadmap forward, it will represent complete aquiescence to the Dem roadmap forward as it’s been defined for a number of days now.
Right now, the situation is this: It’s Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, and Barack Obama all in agreement in one camp, versus John Boehner in the other.
UPDATE: President Obama just seized on McConnell’s support for the Dem position to increase the pressure on House Republicans to pass the Senate extension — and to further isolate the House GOP.
“The House needs to pass a short term version of this compromise, and then we should negotiate an agreement as quickly as possible to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance,” Obama said. “Just a few years ago, this is exactly what the Republican leader of the Senate said we should do.”
Reid, McConnell, and Obama all hold identical positions at this point. The McConnell offer today is not a middle ground between Dems and the House GOP.