If my count is right, a coalition of House members aligned with the Tea Party and Progressive caucuses could cause any bill sent to the House from the Senate to fail. Michele Bachmann came out with a statement yesterday afternoon signalling probable opposition to any deal that ties unemployment extensions to tax cut extensions.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, said Republicans could balk at voting to extend all the tax cuts for two years if it's tied to a long-term extension of jobless benefits.
"I don't know that Republicans would necessarily go along with that vote. That would be a very hard vote to take," Bachmann said on conservative talker Sean Hannity's radio show on Monday.
Assuming Bachmann has the ability to hold the caucus together, that's 52 House members. The progressive caucus has 83 members. If both joined in opposition, that would leave any bill sent from the Senate short 8 votes in the House.
That conclusion assumes such a bill ever leaves the Senate, of course. It's possible it won't, depending on how much power Jim DeMint wields. If DeMint, Inhofe, Barasso, Coburn, Bunning, Voinovich, Sanders and Feingold can put together 41 opposing votes between the ultra conservatives and the ultra progressives, it could get stuck there, as well.
Ah, we live in interesting times. Those tax cuts may still expire December 31st, and if they do it will be because a coalition of natural enemies joined against a compromise coming from the center.
This debate has been a test of everyone's resolve. There are still lots of plays left before the clock runs out. Stay tuned.