Washington is on the cusp of something unusual: A bipartisan agreement hammered out well before the 11th hour. On Tuesday evening, House and Senate leaders agreed to a package that will renew President Obama's payroll tax holiday for the rest of the year, as well as raise Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors and extend unemployment benefits for another 10 months. The biggest surprise: House Republicans dropped their insistence that the payroll-tax-cut extension (which will add $100 billion to the deficit) be paid for with cuts elsewhere, a capitulation that infuriated many conservatives. Did the GOP simply give up after badly losing a similar fight in December, or is something else going on?
The GOP caved, big time: Both sides compromised to reach this deal, but Republicans "surrendered," says Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog. Facing the prospect of being blamed for raising taxes on 160 million middle-class workers, "the GOP simply couldn't play the same game" at which it excelled during debt-ceiling and government-shutdown showdowns last year: Hold the economy hostage, wait for Democrats to cave. This time, Democrats had the upper hand and everyone knew it.
"Congress reaches tentative payroll deal"
In some ways, this is a win for conservatives: It's not that simple, says Conn Carroll at The Washington Examiner. This deal "contains a huge, though far from perfect, win for conservatives on the Hill." Letting Americans keep their money is always a victory for anti-tax Republicans. And while this deal commits the right-wing blasphemy of adding to the deficit, it vastly improves on the Democrats' initial proposal: Paying for a payroll tax holiday by soaking the rich with a tax hike.
"Conservatives win on payroll cut"
Republicans are playing Obama like a fiddle: This is terrible fiscal policy, says the pseudonymous Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge. But, by letting Obama "spend, spend, spend," the GOP can win. If the president keeps adding to the deficit at this rate, the U.S. will hit the debt ceiling in September. And if there's another big showdown over raising the national credit card limit before election day, "Obama's chances of re-election plunge." All the GOP has to do is get out of the way and "let Obama blow himself up."
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