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Hey, you know what?

About that "deal?" The tax one? Yeah. There might not be a "deal."

Why not? Because the real Senate minority leader says he's just not down with it:

A leading conservative voice in the Senate said Tuesday he will vote against the tax cut deal President Obama brokered with Republicans in Congress.  

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said that he will oppose a potential cloture vote on the accord and a final vote if the package advances past a possible filibuster.

And he's not alone:

Two influential House Republicans, Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Michele Bachmann (Minn.), foreshadowed DeMint's announcement by indicating this week that Republicans could vote down the tax plan.

And why not?

DeMint said that "the biggest problem" he has with the plan is that it does not extend the tax cuts permanently.

But would it matter if it did? Last week, DeMint ally Tom Coburn (R-OK) objected to and sunk another "deal" that "Senate Minority Leader" Mitch McConnell (R-KY) thought he'd negotiated and that would have given the Senate a chance at a vote last Saturday on just such a plan. Why? Because doing so gives Republicans more opportunities to screw with Democrats, that's why. Is it true that all Republicans want is to serve the rich? Well, maybe. But if there's anything they want even more right now, it's to show the world the sight of Democrats losing as often and on as many fronts as possible. Who gives a crap about the taxes and whatnot? That'll all come soon enough.

Is it all just so totally chaotic and unpredictable that there was just no avoiding it? Well, I certainly haven't considered Mitch McConnell to be the minority leader for some time now. And you know what? Neither has McConnell:

Traditionally, the Senate passes noncontroversial measures by unanimous consent at the end of most workdays, a process known as hot-lining. DeMint, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and others have fought against the practice for years and have dedicated staff members to reviewing bills that are to be hot-lined.

As a result, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have generally given DeMint, Coburn and others time to review legislation before proceeding with unanimous consent agreements.

But in a terse e-mail sent to all 100 Senate chiefs of staff Monday evening, Steering Committee Chief of Staff Bret Bernhardt warned that DeMint would place a hold on any legislation that had not been hot-lined or been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday.

And by the middle of last month, it was pretty obvious that the tax situation was likely to get out of McConnell's hands as well:

And keep in mind that you never know with this band of wackos who you're negotiating with. Mitch McConnell might well cut you a deal (and a poor one, at that), only to have Boss DeMint tug the choke chain on him and leave you holding the bag. You'll pass tax cuts for the rich, and then he'll put a razor to your throat and demand that you kill the UI extensions to boot.

It hasn't come to pass quite like that this time around. At least not to date. But who knows? If there's no actual deal that can get across the finish line, it may yet. And of course, the supposed genius of the deal is that we'll have this debate again in two years. Or one year, in the case of UI.

There's a pretty serious problem inherent in the practice of negotiating with shadows. And it's hard enough to predict where we'll be in two years, without having to factor into the mix the fact that all of this has -- for some unknown reason -- all been negotiated with a kept man. And to top it all off, the real power behind the throne here isn't playing for policy ends. He's playing to embarrass the other side. You can't negotiate with that. There's nothing he wants.

I'll be honest, I can't tell you exactly what I make of this whole episode, or what I'd ultimately counsel with respect to the competing interests in this situation. But to keep negotiating these supposed "deals" with Mitch McConnell?

Piss, meet wind.

Pre-publication UPDATE:
Yes, it's Politico. But press flacks use Politico for very distinct purposes.

One administration official told POLITICO that Obama was so dispirited after his Nov. 18th meeting with the Democratic leadership that he decided, then and there, to place his faith in direct talks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Might as well put your faith in direct talks with Howard Baker. He's also no longer the Senate Minority Leader. It seems to me that the President is negotiating with the Senate he left for the campaign trail, not the Senate he actually has right now. And the results appear so far to be about what might be expected: he's got a kinda-sorta deal with nobody in particular. Will it be enough to patch together a coalition? We'll see.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 08:30 AM PST.

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