By now, it's obvious that Republicans hope to piggyback the unpopular Bush tax cuts for the wealthy on the popular Obama tax cuts for the middle-class by blurring the distinction between the two proposals. Case in point: Mitch McConnell just announced he'll introduce legislation that would extend both of them in a single package.
The GOP's problem here is that there is really no substantive reason to link the two tax cuts. It's obvious they are are trying to attach something unpopular to something popular. It's the oldest legislative trick in the book, but when everybody is paying attention, it's a hard trick to pull off, especially for a minority party just weeks before an election.
Thus far, Democrats have set this debate up perfectly. Now is the time to close the deal by scheduling an immediate vote on the popular Obama tax cuts for the middle-class while simultaneously giving Republicans the opportunity to have a debate and vote on Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.
Pretty much everybody agrees on extending the middle-class tax cuts, so let's get that issue off the table, making sure that nobody holds it hostage -- on either side. (Note that it would also render McConnell's bill moot.)
Meanwhile, Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy are unpopular, but that doesn't mean Republicans shouldn't have the opportunity to make the case for extending them, including a floor debate and an up-or-down vote. At the end of the debate, if Republicans can't win the argument, that's nobody's fault but their own.
TPM's Christina Bellantoni cites an anonymous House aide as saying that Democrats won't schedule a vote on this and will instead let Boehner "dangle" in the hopes that it will make the GOP seem obstructionist. If that really is their strategy, it would be quite foolish: how can Dems argue Boehner is blocking something that they won't bring up for a vote, especially when Boehner has suggested he might actually vote for it?
Instead, Dems should force Boehner and the GOP to put up or shut up. Perhaps Republicans would still try to take Obama's tax cuts for the middle-class hostage, but if they do so while turning down the opportunity to have a debate and vote on their proposal to cut taxes on the wealthy, it would a political disaster of epic proportions. That's why Boehner and now even McConnell are trying shed the hijacker label. And that's why the most likely outcome is that Republicans will end up doing the sensible thing: voting with the majority on middle-class tax cuts while losing their battle to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. If that happens, Democrats will have proven their capacity to govern, and that's a helluva' lot more valuable than accusing the GOP of obstruction.
So let's not get cute. It's time to call their bluff.