House Democrats have a decision to make this week: do they value messing with President Obama’s tax plan more than their Holiday plans? The Senate today is expected to vote on cloture on the tax plan, which would mean passage by Wednesday (assuming they get cloture, which seems likely). The House would then take up the measure Thursday or Friday.
Some Dems have been pushing for an amendment to water down or strip out the estate tax provision, the “bridge too far,” as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it. If they succeed in doing so, the bill would ping back to the Senate where, I’m told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would not have the votes to pass the new version since Republicans want that estate tax language. So, the Senate would, mostly likely, pass the same bill they originally passed and pong that back to the House. This game of chicken could go on forever but, sources say, the House would most likely fold eventually having made their unhappiness felt. Plus, for all their displeasure with the President, bringing down his tax bill would only hurt his already curtailed coattails in 2012.
Plus, the only people the ping-pong strategy hurts is House members (and the Senate) themselves as they would be forced to work right up and potentially through Christmas Eve. Obama can sign the bill from the beach in Hawaii if needs be. Airline tickets are expensive and difficult to rearrange during the Holiday season, not only for members but for their thousands of staffers. Which is why Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a top Pelosi adviser, noted on Fox News Sunday that despite “some Democrats who will refuse to go along… we’re not going to hold this thing up at the end of the day.”