Did anyone else notice the land mine for the GOP in the State of the Union address? I’m not talking about the payroll-tax-cut-extension fight to come, which President Obama called “our most immediate priority.” I’m talking about the impending expiration of the tuition tax credit.
The president said:
When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.
House Republicans found themselves on the wrong side of a tax issue — one that benefited the middle-class, to boot — last month when they revolted against a deal to extend the payroll tax cut last month. Then they embarrassed themselves when they were forced to retreat. The two-month extension approved last month expires next month.
But once that fight is resolved, whenever it’s resolved, congressional Republicans will faced another fight over whether to help the middle class by re-upping the tuition tax credit by July. Now, we all know that a snowball has a better chance of surviving a day in the sun than the president has of getting through Congress the agenda he outlined last night. And that prospect becomes less likely the closer we get to the nominating conventions for the Republicans (August) and Democrats (September) and into the general election campaign.
Unless the GOP get over its aversion to working with the president, it could find itself once again in a fight with Obama over helping the middle class, right smack in the middle of a presidential campaign that might well still be centered on income inequality. As we saw with the payroll tax cut, the president’s not afraid of a fight. If the GOP opts to go toe-to-toe over the tuition tax credit, it’s bound to lose that one, too.