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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about a payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance February 14, 2012 at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House in Washington, DC. Obama called on the Congress to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance through the end of the year.
Yesterday, House Republicans announced they would be abandoning their request that the payroll tax cut could only be extended if it were balanced by cuts in spending. The extension of the payroll tax cut would affect 160 million working Americans, no small part of the electorate.
Polls have shown that since the issue arose in December, the GOP has suffered damage from President Obama’s claim that they would be raising taxes on the middle class. An extension of the cuts would allow for Americans to receive an extra $20 a week in their paychecks through the end of the year.
Beyond stressing the obvious benefits to working Americans, Democrats also criticized the Republicans for the inherent hypocrisy in demanding spending cuts be made to offset the tax extension, and yet never requiring the same cuts in spending to be made in association with George W. Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy.
The Republican brass in Washington claims that the Democrats are not at all concerned with compromise and that they are playing “political games.” Even though they have acquiesced on the payroll tax cut, the actual negotiations taking place also include unemployment benefits and Medicare’s physician payments. On those two issues, the GOP has not budged from its insistence that there must be a plan in place for how the costs would be recouped.
Are Republicans setting themselves up for further problems with this move? What would the political fallout be if the public sours on their stance once again? Are they conceding too much, or did they simply have no other choice? Could this actually be a strategic ploy to dismantle unemployment benefits? How will Republicans regain ground in an election year?
David Mark, Senior Editor for Politico
Sal Russo, Chief Strategist, Tea Party Express in California