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John Boehner
Another botched vote for Boehner
(Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
 
No matter what the Democrats give, it's apparently not enough. Or maybe it is, but the GOP meltdown in the House is so severe at this point that they literally can accomplish nothing.

According to the GOP leadership's press conference this evening, they won't be voting on the payroll tax cut sent to them by the Senate. This is almost certainly because the numbers showed the bill would pass, and for whatever reason, the GOP leadership doesn't want it to pass. It's yet another (in this case, massive) failure of their leadership to control their own caucus.

So here's what (apparently) will be happening next. Instead of voting on the Senate bill, the GOP leadership will have the House vote tomorrow on a non-binding Sense of the House resolution saying that they really, really want a payroll tax cut extension that lasts a full year, not just the two month version. This accomplishes nothing, but Eric Cantor and the others expect this will allow them to save face by telling America just how much they'd love to get that done, except for the part where they've been blocking it from happening with poison pill after poison pill.

Then they're going to send it all to conference, in which the House and the Senate will negotiate, yet again, to come up with a plan both the Senate and House can agree on. A rather obvious problem with this is that the Senate is technically gone for the holidays already. Another problem: it's not clear there's any way they can agree anyway, barring yet another round of Democratic concessions (yes, yes, what are the odds?) or a cave on the part of Cantor's own faction.

What happens now? Who knows? Yet another round of brinksmanship, yet another blowhard-filled press conference blaming the mean Senate for a fiasco in the House, and yet another blown deadline. If John Boehner and Cantor are attempting to ratchet Congressional approval ratings lower still, they're doing a heck of a job of it.

6:07 PM PT: Politico explains it more diplomatically than I:

House Republicans postponed a planned Monday night vote on the Senate-passed payroll tax cut bill amid a desire among some rank-and-file lawmakers to cast an affirmative vote rather than a negative one.

House leaders had hoped to vote down the Senate bill, which would extend for two months President Barack Obama’s payroll tax cut, certain unemployment insurance benefits and the current Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. But after a long debate Monday night, it appeared more likely that they would vote to create a House-Senate conference committee rather than first rejecting the Senate bill outright.

A fiasco, all the way around.

6:32 PM PT: How cynical is the move? Roll Call:

It would be difficult for Congress to approve a conference report before the current payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits and Medicare “doc-fix” provisions expire. It could take the Senate as many as nine days to appoint conferees because of potential procedural hurdles. And conferences usually take days for negotiators to reconcile positions.

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