Boehner appears to be on board with Obama tax plan

BOEHNER APPEARS TO BE ON BOARD WITH OBAMA TAX PLAN…. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) raised a few eyebrows yesterday, telling CBS’s “Face the Nation” that, while he’s not thrilled about it, he’d reluctantly support President Obama’s tax plan.

Asked whether he could back permanent lower tax rates on the middle class, while allowing breaks for the wealthy to expire on schedule, Boehner said, “If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I’ll vote for them.” The remarks represented a shift in direction for the Republican leadership — the GOP had effectively said they’re prepared to hold the entire policy hostage. If Dems didn’t agree to breaks for the rich, the GOP would block lower rates for the middle class. Yesterday, Boehner suggested that if Obama’s tax breaks for 98% of the country is all he can get, he’ll take it.

The next question was whether Boehner would walk it back. So far, the answer is “not yet.” The Minority Leader’s office did release a statement late yesterday, in light of the attention Boehner’s “Face the Nation” remarks generated.

“Raising taxes on any American, and especially small businesses, in a struggling economy is the exact wrong thing to do, a position shared by not only by my Republican colleagues, and several of my Democratic colleagues, but by a vast number of economists.

“If the president is serious about job creation, there’s a clear way forward, and that’s for us to come together and pass legislation immediately that cuts spending to 2008 levels for the next year and stops all of the coming tax hikes by freezing all current tax rates for the next two years….”

There are two key points to this. The first is that Boehner’s proposal, first floated last week, is genuinely ridiculous. As a substantive matter, he should be embarrassed for even suggesting it.

The second is that Boehner’s statement didn’t walk back his on-air comments at all. He told a national television audience that he’s prepared to support Obama’s tax plan, and in his follow-up, Boehner made no effort to suggest otherwise. Boehner, in other words, appears to be on board with the Obama proposal — barring any further “clarifications” today.

And while this seems to be welcome progress, it’s worth emphasizing that Boehner’s reluctant, grudging acceptance may help reshape the debate a bit, but it hasn’t been echoed by his Senate counterparts. In almost any scenario, House Republicans couldn’t hold middle-class tax cuts hostage, even if they wanted to — they don’t really have the votes or procedural tools to make it happen. Senate Republicans, however, still have the ability to filibuster Obama’s tax cuts, and play a game of chicken — give them everything they want or they’ll kill the breaks for the middle class.