House Republicans ran for cover Thursday after getting killed in the Christmas public relations war over extending the payroll tax cut.
At issue, supposedly, was an extension of a short-term reduction in Social Security withholding, which would let 160 million American wage-earners continue to take home an extra $20 per week in their paychecks come Jan. 1.
In fact, the Republican-dominated House passed a one-year extension of that tax break. The Democratic U.S. Senate then refused to pass that bill. The senators wrote their own tax-break extension — lasting only 60 days, guaranteeing the problem would resurface in February — and went home, leaving the Republican House with no ability to resolve differences between the two versions in conference.
House Republicans attempted to dig in, only to be met with President Barack Obama trotting out at a Thursday news conference a handful of middle-class props who claimed they’d be devastated by any delay in extending this tax holiday. It was PR genius — the Republicans were rolled.
Lost in all this was the fact that the House bill included a provision allowing the Keystone XL oil pipeline project to go forward. The president had postponed approval of the project as a sop to his green-extreme constituents. As columnist Lawrence Kudlow pointed out, “The payroll tax-cut debate is not really about the payroll tax.”
Instead, it’s about the GOP’s effort to highlight the president’s refusal to move forward with a “shovel ready” project that could create thousands of new jobs. The president’s “manic support of clean energy — just think Solyndra — has blocked out any rational evaluation of the ongoing importance of oil and natural gas,” Mr. Kudlow noted.
Regardless, the House Republican gambit failed miserably as a political maneuver.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this near-religious White House intransigence when it comes to allowing the continued development of sensible, cost-effective domestic energy resources is putting at risk hundreds of thousands of American jobs.