Boehner’s radical departure on tax policy

The prospects for an extension of the payroll tax break are improving in the Senate, but what about the House, where far-right Republicans dominate? House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters today he’s open to the idea, but he has some conditions, most notably the fact that the tax cuts must be offset with savings elsewhere.

Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans will continue trying to reach agreements with Obama on ways to create jobs. But he stopped short of saying he favored extending this year’s 2 percent reduction in the 6.2 percent payroll tax that workers pay or enlarging it, as Obama and many Democrats want.

“If in fact we can find common ground on these extensions, I think you can take to the bank the fact that they will be paid for,” Boehner told reporters.

Here are a few questions for enterprising Capitol Hill reporters who talk to the Speaker:

1. Since when does Boehner believe in paying for tax cuts? Over the course of his 10 terms in the House, has he ever demanded that a tax break for American workers “be paid for”?

2. If this is the first time Boehner has made such a demand — spoiler alert, it is — why do you suppose the Speaker is applying a new standard to these tax cuts, which would raise taxes on over 100 million American households next year, severely undermining the national economy, unless Boehner’s House agrees to an extension?

3. When Boehner demands that all of the Bush-era tax breaks be made permanent before 2013, will he demand that these tax cuts are also “paid for,” or do these breaks, at a cost of $3.7 trillion over the next decade, not count in his mind?

Inquiring minds want to know.