Back in December, House Republicans thought they'd come up with a clever strategy: they'd hold the payroll tax break hostage until Democrats paid some kind of ransom. President Obama balked, Democrats held their ground, and it looked like the economy would take a hit as a result of GOP intransigence.
But the House Republican plan fell apart when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) endorsed the Democratic plan for a temporary extension, cutting the House GOP off at the knees. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) folded soon after.
This week, a new House Republican ploy began to unfold, and yesterday, McConnell undercut his House counterparts again.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sided with the White House on Thursday when he voted to advance next year's budget bills based on last August's debt-ceiling deal.His vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee puts the GOP leader on the opposite side of the issue from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his conference.
As we talked about yesterday, Democrats and Republicans struck a deal last summer on spending levels for the upcoming year, clearing the way for a smooth budget process. House GOP leaders recently decided to ignore the agreement they accepted, make even deeper cuts, and tell Democrats they have to give in or there will be a government shutdown shortly before the election.
Boehner, in other words, has said he will no longer honor the agreement he helped strike. McConnell, with his actions yesterday, said he will honor the agreement.
In fact, nearly all of the Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to accept the spending levels that were set out in last summer's bipartisan deal. The spending levels passed on a 27-to-2 vote.
And why does this matter? Because it isolates the House GOP in a rather dramatic way -- House Republicans want to force a shutdown showdown, even if it means breaking their word. As of yesterday, we learned Senate Republicans don't plan to join them, which leaves Boehner and Cantor in a much weaker position, and all but guarantees their eventual failure.
The odds of a September shutdown are now dropping, as is the feeble House Speaker's stature.