Republicans weren't going to win this latest battle over the payroll tax cut extension. They just needed to figure out how to go about losing.
They could try to convince Americans that it was Democrats who were stubbornly not compromising, a hard sell given that Republicans had previously drawn a line in the sand on increasing taxes to pay for the extension - or anything. Or, Republicans could give in to a solution that included spending cuts and a temporary tax surcharge on the rich.
Instead they chose Option 3: Extend the payroll tax cut without paying for it. It's a move that stunned Democrats, surprised GOP supporters, and prompted the obvious question: Why?
The news: Republicans and Democrats announced early this morning that they've agreed to extend the payroll tax cut through the end of the year. Lawmakers also extended jobless benefits and avoided a reduction in federal reimbursements for physicians who treat Medicare patients. The latter two items will be paid for with an array of spending cuts. The first item, the payroll tax cut extension, will simply be another $100 billion added to the nation's debt.
That's not a solution we advocate, and its so out of character for the GOP that Democrats initially thought it was a trap when Republican leaders suggested it earlier this week. Some House Republicans are still grumbling about it.
What does it mean? While it's initially encouraging to see Republicans compromise, their decision shows that when faced with a choice of which tenet to violate, they'll opt for increasing the debt rather than raising taxes. Solving our $15 trillion debt crisis will take solutions that involve dramatic spending cuts and reform that will result in tax increases. We can't choose debt over either.
Politico's Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman have a more optimistic take on Republicans: They're maturing as politicians.
Say the writers:
The GOP majority is showing signs of growing up. It’s learning how to cut political losses and taking the long view on policy fights that started before the freshman newbies showed up last January.