FRI DEC 09, 2011 AT 08:11 AM PST
John Boehner in tight spot over payroll tax extension
House Speaker John Boehner remains in a bit of a pickle over the end of year work Congress has to do, including the payroll tax cut extension, the perennial Medicare payments to doctors fix, extending unemployment insurance, and keeping his caucus happy. As we've been detailing here, GOP leadership understands the political need to extend the payroll tax cuts or be flayed for the next year as the party that raised taxes on working families. To get the rank-and-file on board, Boehner has had to add crazy-ass "sweeteners" that his mouth-breathers will flock to, knowing that these crazy-ass sweeteners which, so far, the Senate and the White House say they'll reject.
The political message to his colleagues is, bluntly, don’t screw this up. In a meeting Thursday morning with House Republicans in the same Longworth Office Building room where he was elected speaker, Boehner reminded Republicans they’ve already cut spending, changed the culture of the Capitol and stopped Obama’s agenda in its tracks.
“The big prize is 2012,” Boehner said, according to several sources in the room. [...]
The speaker has tossed in a series of sweeteners to get the GOP to support the payroll tax: restarting the Keystone XL pipeline, cutting jobless benefits in half, targeting environmental rules, slicing money out of Obama’s health care law and limiting the Medicare benefits the wealthy can get. In exchange, they’ll give Obama the political victory and get out of town for the rest of 2011.
But it’s a gamble. Boehner’s hope is that the Senate and Obama accept the right-leaning bill. And when they don’t — Democrats are sure to remove most of those prized items — the speaker will have to rely on enough Republicans backing a final compromise. [...]
[T]he downside for Republicans is likely to come if Senate Democrats don’t budge. Boehner’s strategy relies on the upper chamber — and Obama — accepting some combination of restarting the Keystone XL pipeline, slashes to the health care law and a federal pay freeze.