When people take a back seat to politics

While most GOP lawmakers are apparently content to let the payroll tax cut expire at the end of the month, regardless of the economic consequences, there are some Republicans who support an extension. But even with these folks, they seem to have stumbled onto the right position for the wrong reasons.

Jamison Foser flags this quote from New York’s Peter King.

Some Republicans worried about the political fallout for their party if the public holds them responsible for holding up middle-class tax relief.

“If we don’t extend the payroll tax (cut), we’re giving the Democrats an issue,” said Rep. Peter King, R-New York. “There is no need to give it to them. They’re the ones who mismanaged the economy. They are the ones who put us in this situation. We shouldn’t allow them to get out from under that.”

It’s tempting to explain to King that the recession began in 2007 — making it silly to blame Dems for “putting us in this situation” — but let’s put that aside for a moment.

The more interesting realization here is that the New York Republican didn’t say he’s concerned about the economy, and he didn’t say he wants to put more money in middle-class consumers’ pockets. King instead said he wants to go along with a payroll-break extension to deny Democrats a campaign issue.

And ultimately, that’s apparently all that really matters.

As Foser concluded, “That’s the modern Republican Party: Occasionally willing to do the right thing, but only if they think it will hurt Democrats.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.