Dems still have big majorities for the lame-duck session

DEMS STILL HAVE BIG MAJORITIES FOR THE LAME-DUCK SESSION…. President Obama has already offered congressional Republicans a deal on taxes that gives them nearly everything they want: a permanent reduction in rates for the middle class, and a temporary extension of Bush-era rates for the wealthy. The Hill reports the offer, and the very idea of separating tax deals for the rich and everyone else, appears to be “dead.”

The Obama administration’s hopes of reaching a tax deal with Republicans that would decouple rates on the rich from the middle class appear dead.

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) threw cold water on the proposed plan, which would temporarily extend tax cuts for the wealthy while permanently extending tax cuts for the middle class. “Taxes shouldn’t be going up on anybody right now,” Cantor said.

Cantor’s comments Monday evening on Fox News follow similar remarks from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the incoming senior Republican on the Senate’s tax-writing committee. While Hatch expressed an open mind to extending tax cuts past the 2012 election rather than permanently extending the rates, he also ruled out the decoupling proposal.

Remember a couple of months ago, when congressional Democrats had the option of dealing with this before adjournment? When they could have passed a middle-class tax-cut package before Election Day? When polls showed the public supporting the Democratic position over the GOP’s? When Dems decided it’d be better to wait?

I couldn’t figure out what they were thinking at the time. Now, the decision looks even worse.

But reading the report in The Hill, it occurred to me that Cantor and other Republicans are barking orders, declaring proposals dead, as if they were in the majority. So perhaps now would be a good time to point a minor detail: Bush-era tax rates expire at the end of the year, and between now and then, there’s a large Democratic majority in both chambers.

Cantor is refusing to consider the White House’s compromise offer? Fine. Given that Cantor is still in the minority, it’s not really up to him to decide — at least not until next year.

It seems to me Democrats can get out of their defensive crouch and tell the GOP what’s going to happen — there will be a vote on a tax-cut package, and it will feature a permanent cut in middle-class tax rates, and a temporary extension of rates for the wealthy. They can either vote for it or against it. If Senate Republicans refuse to allow the chamber to consider the package, they will have killed the only opportunity available to keep Bush-era tax rates alive, and will be responsible for bringing back Clinton-era rates for everyone.

Much of the GOP’s posturing is about playing for the cameras — if they refuse to compromise and Dems cave, Republicans get what they want. If they refuse to compromise and all of the tax rates expire on schedule, Republicans get the talking point they want (“Dems raised taxes”).

With that in mind, Dems aren’t playing the game well. After multiple efforts at offering concessions, there’s no reason Democrats can’t simply put a reasonable compromise on the table and tell Republicans to take it or leave it. Start trying to turn the tables and put the onus on the party that’s hold middle-class tax cuts hostage.

The GOP won a House majority last week, but it won’t take effect until the new year. There’s no reason for Dems to forget they’re still in charge.