Take two votes and call me in 2011

TAKE TWO VOTES AND CALL ME IN 2011…. Just four days ago, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) was sounding surprisingly reasonable about the debate over tax policy. He’s changed quite a bit since.

President Obama wants a tax cut for the middle class, while allowing higher rates for the wealthy to expire on schedule. Boehner said on Sunday he would prefer, of course, to give breaks to the rich, no matter what it does to the deficit, but if lower rates for the middle class are the best he can do, he’ll take it. Some breaks, Boehner grudgingly conceded, are better than none.

Contrast this with Boehner’s new-found inflexibility.

House Minority Leader John Boehner on Thursday called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to allow an up-or-down vote on extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts while continuing to blast President Barack Obama for proposing more spending.

“The Speaker should pledge to the American people and when she stands before these cameras later today [to allow] an honest up-or-down vote to stop all of the coming tax hikes,” the Ohio Republican said in his weekly press conference. “Anything less than that is unacceptable.”

Putting aside the fact that “the coming tax hikes” were Republicans’ idea — it was the GOP who set the lower rates to expire at the end of the year — I’m not sure where Boehner derives the authority to dictate what’s “unacceptable.” Unacceptable to whom? The fat-cat lobbyists bankrolling Boehner’s campaign operation?

Nevertheless, it’s an election season, and conservative Dems are prone to do silly things. Today, at least 31 House Democrats, mostly Blue Dogs, announced their agreement with Boehner, and urging the House leadership to extend tax breaks for the wealthy, even if it adds billions of dollars to the deficit.

What happens now? Cowardly center-right Dems foolishly running to embrace the GOP line complicates matters, but I think Jon Chait has the right suggestion.

Well, there’s a simple solution to that: hold two votes. First have a vote on the tax cuts for all income under $250,000. (That of course, also provides significant tax relief to upper-income taxpayers. Indeed, under that plan, the rich would get more than the middle class in total dollars). […]

Then you hold a separate vote on tax cuts exclusively for people earning more than $250,000 a year. Anybody who wants to vote for that can vote for that, too.

Remember, the uper-bracket tax cuts are unpopular. The only way the Republicans pass them is to combine them with middle-class tax cuts, then use the former to pass the latter. The whole tactic is to combine the two in order to put the GOP at an advantage. The Republican game is to hide their political shit sandwich in your ice cream sundae. Why let them play that game? Keep the two separate and let people decide which they want.

Works for me. Boehner demanded “an honest up-or-down vote” on this — so give him one. One vote for the Obama policy with middle-class tax breaks, and one vote for the GOP plan for wealthy. Let’s get everyone on the record and let the chips fall where they may.