House Dems make their displeasure clear

HOUSE DEMS MAKE THEIR DISPLEASURE CLEAR…. House Democrats haven’t exactly been hiding their disagreement with the tax policy agreement struck by the White House and congressional Republicans. But this morning, that dissatisfaction was registered in a more formal way.

Defying President Obama, House Democrats voted Thursday not to bring up the tax package that he negotiated with Republicans in its current form.

“This message today is very simple: That in the form that it was negotiated, it is not acceptable to the House Democratic caucus. It’s as simple as that,” said Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

“We will continue to try and work with the White House and our Republican colleagues to try and make sure we do something right for the economy and right for jobs, and a balanced package as we go forward,” he said.

The vote comes a day after Vice President Biden made clear to House Democrats behind closed doors that the deal would unravel if any changes were made.

By all appearances, House Dems weren’t just bothered by policies that made up the compromise, but were also offended in a more personal way — they didn’t feel as if they had sufficient input on the pre-deal negotiations, and were bothered by Vice President Biden’s take-it-or-leave-it message yesterday.

So, what happens now? The caucus’ decision this morning is non-binding — it expresses members’ attitudes, but the leadership could choose to bring the measure to the floor anyway, and it could conceivably still pass with enough Republican votes.

More likely, though, is that House Democratic leaders will demand changes to the deal before it’s brought to the floor.

At this point, questions abound. It’s not clear exactly what kind of changes House Democrats want to see, when they might start a new round of negotiations, or with whom. What’s more, if they scuttle the entire deal, as best as I can tell, House Dems have not yet crafted a back-up plan for how to extend unemployment benefits, how to secure the economic stimulus that’s in this agreement, and how to get approval for an expanded earned-income tax credit and the continuation of a college-tuition tax credit.

They just know they don’t like what’s on the table now, or the way in which it was presented to them.

In light of this morning’s caucus vote, it’s safe to assume White House officials will have to pay a lot more attention to what House Democrats want, even as the Senate debate on the agreement gets underway.