A Lesson in Negotiation

John Boehner

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) addresses the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 9, 2012.Jonathan Ernst/ReutersU.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) addresses the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 9, 2012.

The Republican leaders in the House are hopping mad. Fed up. They’re not going to take it anymore.

House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (not to be confused with the actor of the same name who starred in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) said today that because the Democrats won’t agree to pay for an extension of the payroll tax holiday with spending cuts, they are going to vote on a bill that would extend the payroll tax holiday without any spending cuts.

I’m not making this up. It’s in a statement from their offices that I first read on TPM.

It explains that the Republicans really wanted a bipartisan agreement, but “to date, Democrats have refused virtually every spending cut proposed.” And if Democrats “continue to refuse to negotiate in good faith, Republicans may schedule this measure for House consideration later this week pending a conversation with our members.”

Passing a clean extension of the payroll tax is just fine. Of course, there is some pretty lame spin in this announcement. It claims that while Republicans were slaving away over a mutually-agreeable plan, the Democrats were proposing “job-threatening tax hikes on small business job creators.” Translation: the Democrats were trying to raise taxes on people who make over $1 million a year.

“In the face of the Democrats’ stonewalling and obstructionism, we are prepared to act to protect small businesses and our economy from the consequences of Washington Democrats’ political games,” the statement said.

Imagine that. The House Republicans are going to pass a vitally important measure bringing relief to middle class Americans in a time of economic distress. I’d say the Republicans are putting the American people ahead of their animus for the Democrats—but they haven’t fully demonstrated their good will. Congress also needs to extend unemployment insurance, and the statement suggests that Republicans aren’t ready to cave on that vital legislation. They probably want to make the Democrats demand it, so that it looks like they can’t take “yes” for an answer.

There’s a lesson here: If the Congressional Democrats and the White House stand firm on a principle, and keep up the heat, it may be possible to get the Republicans to back down. I can’t resist pointing out that they should have learned this lesson a lot earlier.

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