President Obama’s statement today that he wants more than just a ten month payroll tax cut extension shows just how much the president owns John Boehner and the House Republicans.
The president said,
Over the past two years, our businesses have added over 3.7 million new jobs. Our manufacturers are hiring more new workers to make more new things here in America than at any time since the 1990s. So our economy is growing stronger. And the last thing we need, the last thing we can afford to do, is to go back to the same policies that got us in this mess in the first place. The last thing we need is for Washington to stand in the way of America’s comeback.
First and foremost, that means Washington shouldn’t hike taxes on working Americans right now. That’s the wrong thing to do. But that’s exactly what’s going to happen at the end of this month — in a couple of weeks — if Congress doesn’t do something about it. The payroll tax cut we put in place last year will expire. The typical American family will shell out nearly a thousand dollars more in taxes this year. You’ll lose about $40 out of every paycheck if Congress does not act.
And that can’t happen. Not now. And it doesn’t have to. Congress needs to extend that tax cut — along with vital insurance lifelines for folks who’ve lost their jobs during this recession — and they need to do it now, without drama and without delay. No ideological sideshows to gum up the works. No self-inflicted wounds. Just pass this middle-class tax cut. Pass the extension of unemployment insurance. Do it before it’s too late. And I will sign it right away. (Applause.)
Now, the good news is over the last couple of days, we’ve seen some hopeful signs in Congress that they realize that they’ve got to get this done and you’re starting to hear voices talk about how can we go ahead and make this happen in a timely way on behalf of the American people. That is good news. But as you guys know, you can’t take anything for granted here in Washington until my signature is actually on it.
So we’ve got to keep on making sure that the American people’s voices keep breaking through until this is absolutely, finally, completely done. Until you see me sign this thing, you’ve got to keep on speaking up. Until you see that photograph of me signing it at my desk — (laughter) — make sure it’s verified, certified. If it’s not on the White House website, it hasn’t happened. And I’m going to need to make sure that your voices are heard.
Yesterday, House Republicans agreed to extend the payroll tax cut by ten months with no strings attached, but they tried to keep the unemployment benefits separate. However as you can see in his remarks above, the president put the payroll tax cut and the unemployment benefits extensions back together.
This was a not so subtle way of telling the House Republicans, not good enough. You will give me everything I want or feel the wrath of the American people after you raise taxes on 160 million of them. After House Republicans bungled this should have been non-issue so badly in December, Obama owns them now. They can try to play games and save some face by negotiating on the unemployment benefits extension, but it certainly sounds like Obama isn’t negotiating. He is has adopted the position of do it or else, and in an election year, the or else could be very, very bad for teetering House Republicans.
The change in his tone and attitude when it comes to dealing with Speaker Boehner and his out of control caucus is noticeable. The House has a single digit approval rating. Boehner has been completely battered as Speaker. The economy is growing and so are Obama’s approval ratings. House Republicans are in no position to bargain here, and the president knows it.
The House is only going to be in session for about a hundred or so more days this year. The House leadership can’t handle another bloody payroll tax battle with Obama that they are destined to lose. President Obama holds all the cards, and lessons learned in 2011 are turning into total dominance of the House Republicans in 2012.
Boehner and Cantor have already offered Obama most of what he wanted, but now the president is ready to play his advantage and demand it all. The worm has turned. The relationship has changed, and Obama is in charge.