If McConnell was worried, it should have been a big hint

IF MCCONNELL WAS WORRIED, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A BIG HINT…. As you’ve likely heard, the Senate Democratic leadership officially punted on a tax-cut vote late yesterday, vowing to take up the issue again after the midterm elections. There’s still a slight chance the House may act next week, but by all indications, nervous incumbents insisted they’d be better off not having a confrontation with Republicans over middle-class tax breaks before voters go to the polls.

As for the behind-the-scenes wrangling, Greg Sargent reports that the current and former chiefs of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee both urged the leadership to hold the vote next week, but apparently weren’t persuasive enough.

Several sources tell me that Chuck Schumer was among the Senators pushing for the vote, on the grounds that it would have been good politics for Dems overall, and Politico reports that Robert Menendez wanted the vote, too. Menendez, of course, is the chair of the DSCC, and Schumer is the former DSCC chair — and remains heavily involved in plotting political strategy.

Schumer wanted the vote because he believed Mitch McConnell had concluded it was bad for Republicans, according to a source with knowledge of the conversations. “It became clear that McConnell didn’t want to have a vote,” the source said. “If McConnell sensed that, it was a tell for Democrats that there was political advantage in having it. That’s why Chuck was privately pushing for it.”

When the Republican leader doesn’t want Democrats to do something before an election, that’s generally a big hint that Dems should do precisely that.

As for the larger caucus, it’s not altogether clear exactly which Democratic senators were on which side of the fight, but the side that ultimately won out apparently concluded that the debate had gone well for Dems, and there was no need to “rock the boat.”

“People felt like, Why rock the boat on a good situation?” the Senate source told Greg. “People weren’t sure how having a vote would effect that dynamic. We would have lost Democrats on certain aspects of the vote. Who knows if the media would cover that as Democrats being splintered? In a way the good polling gave people faith that we don’t need to do anything on the issue because we’re already winning.”

I’ve read this a few times, trying to understand the logic, but it eludes me. Dems could have forced a pre-election showdown with Republicans on an issue where voters are siding with Dems. The majority decided not to do the popular thing, though, concluding that supporting a popular idea but not voting on it is enough to curry favor with the public.

Someone’s going to have to explain this one to me.