I'm no fan of Steny Hoyer and did not want to see him take over leadership for the Dems in the House, but the latest from him is quite encouraging to the upcoming narrative.
Steny Hoyer, the number two in the House Dem leadership, told Democrats at a caucus meeting this morning that they would get to vote this year on just extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, a senior Dem aide tells me, signaling support for a confrontational move towards the GOP that liberals have been pushing.
Asked if Democrats would definitely get a chance to hold this vote, the senior aide responded: "Definitely."
Hoyer's declaration comes as Democrats have been debating the way forward on the Bush tax cuts, and another aide tells me that "more than half" of the Dem caucus supports this course of action.
The move indicates that House Dems are growing more resolved to draw a hard line on the Bush tax cuts, forcing Republicans to choose between supporting Obama's tax plan and opposing a tax cut for the middle class. However, the way forward still remains murky. Even if such a measure were to pass in the House, it's unclear whether the Senate will agree to such a vote, and the White House has not endorsed the approach.
What's more, the vote could conceivably go down, or alternatively, Republicans might successfully mount a procedural response, known as a "motion to recommit," that could also force a House vote on the high end cuts. I have not been able to determine how House Dems might respond to such a move.
For all these reasons, this House move does not preclude a deal being reached in the end on a temporary extension of all the cuts. And plans could still change: The House Dem leadership has yet to publicly endorse this plan.
I expect the Republicans to oppose this and try to say that if the Bush tax cuts do expire like they are supposed to, then it amounts to a tax increase and they will be against it. A deal on these tax cuts could be waged, but this is the kind of response we've wanted from Democrats for a long time. Draw a battle line and push.
Digby lays odds on how effective the GOP will be able to convince Americans that up is down when it comes to taxes:
Michael Steel, a spokesman for John Boehner, emails a response to the news that House Dems are planning to hold a vote just on extending the middle class tax cuts:
"The last thing our economy needs right now is a massive tax hike on families and small businesses -- and that's what this plan would mean."
This is classic up-isdownismm, a craft perfected by George W. Bush and one that's making a big comeback. (I expect to see it put into use on the TeaPartierss as well.)
I think Obama should polish up his "hoodwinked and bamboozled" speech and hit this hard before too many people are convinced that the Democrats are voting to raise taxes and all the allegedly liberal gasbags on TV screw it up by blubbering defensively about what constitutes a small business or whether or not someone who makes 250k a year is middle class. (You know they will.) Sadly, I haven't gotten the idea that Obama particularly wants to have this fight.
All polling data has shown that Americans want tax rates to go back to the way they were before Bush took over, so no matter what the GOP response is, they have to fight for messaging. VP Biden is on Morning Joe tomorrow and I hope he's on board with this message because The Scar will pepper him with the GOP narrative. Don't wilt now. And I'm no big fan of even having a tax cut argument because it always benefits the conservative frame, but in this case it's playing the best hand that we have.