(Via @davidhauptmann) Background: the House of Representatives, understandably upset that the Obama administration would rather please foreign conflict oil despots and radical progressives than provide manufacturing and construction jobs to good Americans – to say nothing of cheaper energy – has passed a bill that would expedite the construction of the Keystone ethical oil pipeline. More specifically, the House passed a bill that would extend the payroll tax cut for a time; given the estimated costs of such a cut, the Keystone language was added in order to get enough Republicans to sign off on the whole thing. In other words: no energy jobs, no overall bill.
The Senate version has yet to be voted on, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in a bind. There are at least four Democratic Senators who publicly have come out in favor of the pipeline (Baucus & Tester of Montana, Conrad of North Dakota, and Landrieu of Lousiana); this means that Reid would lose a regular vote 51/49. Worse, the GOP is claiming at least nine more Democratic Senators support it (Begich, Casey, Hagen, Manchin, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Pryor, Stabenow, and Warner). If true, that puts the total up to 60, which is not coincidentally the number that you need to win a cloture vote. Which means that if Harry Reid puts the bill up for consideration, it’s probably going to pass; and the President has already (and in my opinion, foolishly) threatened a veto, despite the fact that his own private sector union allies support both the cut and the pipeline.
Can it be sustained? Well, the House bill passed 234-193 on a party-line vote, but the Democrats who voted no really do want the cuts; they were simply having their cake and eating it too by letting the Republicans vote for passage. Actually voting to kill the payroll tax cut is a lot more problematical for their voting records than simply doing recognized political maneuverings over it. The GOP only needs one-third of the holdouts to flip their votes in order to get a 2/3rd majority there. As for the Senate: getting from 60 to 67 is a lot easier than getting from 51 to 67; again, a lot of Senators want the payroll tax cut. So it could happen. It’s not the most likely scenario in the world, but it could happen.
And that’s why President Obama should never have allowed himself to be put into this position in the first place by the radical Greens. There’s no upside for him in this fight: if he wins, no new energy jobs – and no payroll tax cut extension. If he loses, he looks even weaker than before. This isn’t 2009 or 2010: Democrats in Congress cannot reliably keep Republican initiatives and plans off of the legislative docket. That the President still thought that they can, then “What will it take to get Obama to grasp reality?” becomes a rather urgent question for all of us…
Moe Lane (crosspost)