That’s President Obama speaking at a news conference earlier Friday. And, though it might be the right message for the White House as they try and put pressure on Speaker John Boehner, it’s not really accurate. The two parties do not agree on extending the payroll tax cut. Democrats want to extend it, and Republicans want voters to think they want to extend it. But those two positions are actually very different.
In “The Social Network”, Aaron Sorkin gives his Mark Zuckerberg character a devastating rejoinder to the Winklevii twins. “You know, you really don’t need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this,” he says. “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.” Similarly, if Republicans wanted to extend the payroll tax cut for a full year, they would have extended the payroll tax cut for a full year.
But they don’t. They want to make spending cuts and secure the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and force everyone on unemployment insurance to get drug tested. That’s what this debate is about. But it would be unpopular for Boehner to come out and say that that’s the Republican position. So instead he says things like, “Yesterday, I spoke with President Obama. I urged him to call on Senator Reid to work with us to finish this bill that will provide for one year of tax relief for American workers.”
Washington is dysfunctional, but it isn’t so dysfunctional that the two parties can’t legislate in the cases when they agree. The reality here, however, is that the two parties don’t agree. Even in the Senate, Republicans only agreed to extend the payroll tax cut for two months — agreed, in other words, to settle their disagreement on the payroll tax cut after the holidays. That’s not the same as actually agreeing on the payroll tax cut.