It’s difficult to say exactly why Republicans oppose the bipartisan deal on extending the payroll tax break, in large part because GOP policymakers disagree among themselves.

But listening to House Republican leaders yesterday explain why they’re prepared to raise middle-class taxes, the main talking point had to do with duration — the Senate agreement would extend the payroll cut for two months and revisit the issue in February, and House GOP officials now believe a two-month break is offensive.

But as Sam Stein reported late yesterday, these same House Republicans haven’t always felt this way.

Just under two years ago, House Republicans, including some of the party’s more conservative members, were arguing that a two-month payroll tax holiday would “effectively stimulate” the economy. […]

The January 2009 bill sponsored by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and backed by 56 House Republicans, including current presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), is not identical to the one that is currently being considered. It called for a complete payroll tax holiday, meaning the tax rate would be reduced to zero. The current version, meanwhile, would keep the rate at 4.2 percent, rather than allow it to return to the pre-2010 level of 6.2 percent.

To be sure, those differences matter when it comes to tax policy, but they don’t detract from the larger point as it relates to the current, ongoing debate. Yesterday, House Republicans repeatedly stressed several specific points: (1) a two-month break creates economic “uncertainty”; (2) a two-month break wouldn’t make a significant enough economic difference; and (3) “governing in two-month increments” is inherently misguided.

But as recently as 2009 — not exactly ancient history — several dozen House Republicans believed the exact opposite. Indeed, they even believed a payroll tax break, even just a two-month break, would give the economy a significant boost.

If even half of the same GOP lawmakers were willing to believe now what they believed two years ago, the fight over this middle-class tax cut would already be resolved.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.