President Obama has indefinitely postponed his Christmas vacation to Hawaii, and he has stated that he is willing to stay in Washington through the holiday if necessary, to emphasize his engagement and commitment to the payroll tax cut. It is wise for him to do so.
I have to give them credit — the Democrats are handling this issue pretty well. The Republicans have been divided on the issue, and House Speaker John Boehner has yet to face the final moment of truth on how the Republicans will proceed.
Having been around a few congressional deadlines that coincide with holiday breaks, I can appreciate some of what the speaker and his aides are going through. The speaker is being lobbied by his colleagues not just on the important matter of the payroll tax cut but on the urgent matter of their holiday vacation plans.
I have a vivid memory of receiving howling phone calls when I was working in the White House from members of Congress who told me that their frequent-flier airplane tickets could not be changed, their families’ travel tickets were nonrefundable, their deposits at their hotels could be lost and that we needed to end whatever was causing the delay.
I’m sure this White House is feeling some of the same heat. But the Democrats have the upper hand. There are more wailing Republicans than there are Democrats.
Substantively, Democrats have successfully contorted the issue of why they are insisting on a tax cut for working families, and Republicans are trying to explain why it’s not such a great idea.
Boehner is in a pincer. On one side, he is being squeezed by the Republicans losing in a tax debate, and on the other side, he could face a mutiny if he doesn’t get his members out of town on time. I feel for the guy.
I fear Republicans may have waited too long to in favor of the payroll tax cut and offer a viable spending cut as an offset. I fear we wasted time pretending that there is a Social Security trust fund. Republicans have become so conditioned to being afraid of appearing to tamper with Social Security that we let ourselves get on the wrong side of the facts.
Right now, President Obama and the Democrats are more like Santa, and Republicans look more like the Grinch. I don’t see how the tables are going to turn.
Republicans are in a tough place. I would be more worried, but I will bet Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a plan. We will find out soon.