House Speaker John Boehner tees up his poison pills. (Reuters/Larry Downing)
The House will vote today on its plan for extending the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits, and the "doc fix," avoiding a 27 percent cut on reimbursements to physicians who see Medicare patients. Of course, with those extensions come some very poison pills: forcing a fast-track decision by the administration on the Keystone XL pipeline (which got a
from the State Department), and—of course—slashing any number of benefits, including Medicare and unemployment insurance.
The reviews are brutal. Here's the New York Times' take, with this fantastic headline: "Millionaires on Food Stamps and Jobless Pay? G.O.P. Is on It":
WASHINGTON — It’s an image many Americans would find rather upsetting: a recently laid-off millionaire, luxuriating next to the pool eating grapes bought with food stamps while waiting for an unemployment check to roll in. [...]
Yet as it turns out, millionaires on food stamps are about as rare as petunias in January, even if you count a lottery winner in Michigan who managed to collect the benefit until chagrined officials in the state put an end to it. [...] “It’s a water drop in a hurricane,” said Wayne Vroman, an economist at the Urban Institute. “I can see the PR appeal, but unemployment insurance collected by millionaires is not one of the major problems with the program. This is a way of trying to put an income test on the unemployment system that has never existed in the past.”
Here's what AP reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Raising taxes on millionaires may be a non-starter for Republicans, but they seem to have no problem hiking Medicare premiums for retirees making a lot less.
The House is expected to vote Tuesday on a year-end economic package that includes a provision raising premiums for "high-income" Medicare beneficiaries, now defined as those making $85,000 and above for individuals, or $170,000 for families. [...]
"If we're considering raising taxes on those with incomes above $250,000, then it seems to me very awkward to raise Medicare premiums on those with much lower incomes," said John Rother, head of the National Coalition on Health Care, an advocacy group.
See, Republicans want to soak the rich, too, but not the real rich, just the imaginary rich and the seniors who they think should be living much closer to the bone. All this over a tax cut! Which the Republicans are supposed to love! House Speaker Boehner had to load the bill up with all this stuff just to get his caucus behind a tax cut for working families. It will probably just barely work in the House, with what Boehner can call "bipartisan" support, because Blue Dog Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) will vote for it.
But it's a dead letter in the Senate (even Sen. Joe Lieberman is a no). Boehner already knows that, one suspects, since he's having this vote today when there's still plenty of time before the Christmas break for the Senate to reject it and negotiations on a compromise to continue. It's a reflection of how much Boehner wants this extension to pass that he's not trying to jam the Senate by dropping an unacceptable bill and then getting the hell out of Dodge, not this time around.