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Right Turn
Posted at 01:13 PM ET, 12/16/2011

Democrats losing on the pipeline fight

The Post reports: “House Speaker John A. Boehner said Friday that his chamber will not sign off on an extension of the payroll tax cut sought by President Obama without including a provision to speed construction of an oil pipeline, which Obama has opposed.” In this case, Republicans are likely to get what they want.

For starters, there is no longer a danger of a government shutdown, so the usual Democratic scare tactics are unavailable. Then President Obama dumped his millionaire’s tax without demanding the Keystone XL pipeline provision be taken off the table. And even if Democrats had tried to trade one against the other, Republicans would have been foolish to drop it.

In fact the number of Democrats supporting the pipeline continues to rise, further undercutting the bargaining power of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) provides a handy list of pro-pipeline Democrats. He too insists that the pipeline be part of the deal. His communications director just sent out a concise email: “Sen. McConnell will not support any bill without the XL Keystone Pipeline language as part of the agreement.”

Meanwhile, Democrats badly need to secure an extension of unemployment benefits. If they fail to deliver even that, their base will go nuts. A couple of weeks ago, Democrats tipped their hand,: assuring their organized-labor allies that they would deliver.

So let’s review. The Democrats have to get the payroll tax cut extension and have to get an extension of unemployment benefits. The Republican say these won’t happen without the approval of Keystone XL. If Democrats reject that position, they will have to explain why the prospect of more American jobs was so scary that it prevented them from delivering on their must-have items.You can see how badly the Democrats have boxed themselves in.

It’s also noteworthy how badly the Democrats have misjudged public opinion. The voters’ overwhelming fear is big government, while the public has grown even less supportive of Obamacare. (In the latest AP/GfK poll: “About half of the respondents oppose the health care law and support for it dipped to 29 percent from 36 percent in June. Just 15 percent said the federal government should have the power to require all Americans to buy health insurance.”) And they really don’t go for the class warfare stuff. (Gallup reports: “Americans are now less likely to see U.S. society as divided into the “haves” and “have nots” than they were in 2008, returning to their views prior to that point. A clear majority, 58%, say they do not think of America in this way, after Americans were divided 49% to 49% in the summer of 2008.”) Meanwhile, jobs are far and away the biggest issue.

So you can understand why Republicans feel confident about holding out for a job-creating pipeline. The Democrats’ opposition is baffling if you disregard the degree to which the White House (and, in turn, Democrats in Congress) felt compelled to throw a bone to extreme environmentalists. (Rep. Michele Bachmann wasn’t too far off in the GOP debate last night when she said the president caved to radical environmentalists who threatened they wouldn’t knock on doors for him in the election.) I suspect Democrats will have to cave and once again disappoint their liberal base.

By  |  01:13 PM ET, 12/16/2011

Categories:  Budget

 
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