Posted by: Jeff | September 13, 2010

Boehner Cries “Uncle.” (Maybe.)

The first big piece of news today is John Boehner’s apparent capitulation, on yesterday’s “Face the Nation,” to Obama’s plan to extend the Bush tax cuts only for those making under $250,000.

“If the only option I have is to vote for those at $250,000 and below, of course I’m going to do that. But I’m going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans.”

The catch here is that Boehner is the Republican leader in the House, but the House isn’t going to be the key battleground on the tax cuts. It’s going to be the Senate, and so far Mitch McConnell and the other Senate Republicans don’t seem to be budging on their insistence that the cuts be extended across the board. So Boehner may only be talking about compromise because he knows there’s no chance it could actually happen, leaving him free to burnish his reasonable bipartisan cred without having to put his money where his mouth is.

The good news, I suppose, is that Boehner felt the need to do this at all, which might indicate Obama’s turn towards more populist and aggressive rhetoric — the Republicans are holding middle class tax relief “hostage” to tax cuts for the wealthy — is having some bite. (And as Jonathan Chait has noted, Obama’s position holds the natural political advantage with voters.) There’s also some evidence that Boehner’s comments on “Face the Nation” were a genuine faux pas on his part.

Of course, that’s just armchair political-cum-sports commentary on my part, and the real issue here — and the bad news — is with the policy substance: Even if the Republicans do compromise, the government will still be passing a tax policy that’s only slightly less fiscally destructive than what the GOP originally preferred.

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