Biden schmoozes House Democrats on Obama's tax cut package, but the message is firm: No changes
The full PR panoply of the presidency is on display this week as President Obama attempts to sell his tax cut "compromise" not to voters, nor to Republicans, but to his own Democrats.
So many people chuckled over the president labeling his agreement to accept all of the Bush era tax cuts a "compromise" that the White House changed its terminology. It's now calling the packaged agreement the "Middle Class Tax Cut Framework." (MCTCF) And every few minutes flashing word out to a watiing world of the latest governor, mayor or bus driver to endorse the president's deal.
That'll no doubt fool all of his party mates up on the Hill, where there's still much grumbling over this Chicago pol caving in to the GOP by giving too much for too little. (To refresh your memory, here's how Obama presented the agreement initially. And over here's how he initially defended it against the opening barrage of Democrats' criticism.)
Obama dispatched both his chief economic advisor Lawrence "I'm ....
As usual, transparent Joe's meetings were closed. But there was reportedly much back-slapping, hand-waving (see photo above) and elbow-cupping by the man who was a senator before most House members ever thought of tinting the gray out of their hair.
In a two-hour session with departing Speaker Nancy Pelosi's flustered flock, Biden delivered the firm news from the boss of them all: "It's up or down," he told them, according to The Hill.
Gee, why wouldn't every House Democrat immediately obey the president, having not been consulted and all during the talks with those non-unionized GOP suits.
Biden no doubt described the package as the ill-disguised second stimulus plan that it is, albeit a Republican-style stimulus based on tax cuts and incentives. And the extra 56 weeks of unemployment insurance.
In the interest of transparency, Biden did comment afterward that the meeting went "great."
Democrats don't like the money not going through government first with a proper skim-off to cover bureaucratic costs, of course.
But here's the self-interested appeal: If keeping more of their own money does prompt American consumers to feel better and spend more, then the Republican tax plan will have saved not only the lagging economy but the Democrats' bacon come 2012. How's that for plot twists?
Many on the Hill were no doubt thinking like Harry Reid, as The Ticket reported here Wednesday morning: That if the president wants this bill so badly, maybe they can sneak in a little something for themselves and it too will fly through.
No go, said Biden. Few people, let alone inflated incumbents, like "Take it or leave it" ultimatums. "Take it or leave it, but you can't actually leave it" goes down even harder. Still, Democrats hold large majorities in both houses for the remaining two weeks of the awkward lame-duck session. They will be sorely tempted to fiddle with some things, likely the estate tax protections the Republicans covet.
That could force a messy renegotiation with Republicans or even prompt them to walk. After all, they will control the House big-time come January and could initiate the same tax cut restorations on their own, minus any credit for the ineffective White House or its Party of No.
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell could have some caucus turmoil of his own. Already Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a self-proclaimed "tea party" adherent, has vowed to vote against the package. Something about not liking tacking another mere trillion dollars onto the deficit.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photo: Tim Sloan / AFP / Getty Images; Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press (Obama arrives for his tax cut news conference, 12/7/10).