Extend the Payroll-Tax Cut for One Year

With a two-word amendment, the Republican-led House of Representatives can invite the Democratic Senate to join it in leadership or, conversely, expose the upper chamber as America’s reliable obstacle to progress. This simple step would let Republicans and conservatives achieve substantive objectives and leech much of the air from President Obama’s “Do Nothing Congress” tires.

Page 3 of the Senate’s payroll-tax-cut measure states:

(2) in the case of the taxes described in sub-section (a)(2), the period beginning January 1, 2011, and ending February 29, 2012.

By amending “February 29” to “December 31,” and doing nothing else, the GOP House can return the payroll-tax-cut extension to the Senate, complete with Senate-passed language requiring President Obama to decide on the Keystone XL Pipeline within 60 days.

Last Saturday, after the Senate adopted its bill, President Obama said that “it would be inexcusable for Congress not to further extend this middle-class tax cut for the rest of the year.” Barack Obama is right. It is neither economically sensible nor humane to string along struggling Americans with 60-day tax relief. One-year tax cuts are fleeting enough; two-month cuts are economic cotton candy.

Cutting this tax only through February 29 will guarantee yet another long, drawn-out, unnecessary game of House vs. Senate brinksmanship, with the entire nation hissing and hurling tomatoes as the tedious match plays itself out one more time.

#more#Extending this legislation from Leap Year Day to New Year’s Eve will force Obama to side with Republicans for doing precisely what he wants. If Senate Democrats disagree with this Republican move, they will T-bone the leader of their own party. If Harry Reid and his Democrat colleagues want to collide with Obama to kill a middle-class tax cut, go for it.

This is the path that House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and Republicans should follow when they vote tonight on the Senate language.

Instead of this legislative grand slam, however, Boehner reportedly is about to strike out with the bases loaded and two outs.

News accounts indicate that Boehner wishes to kill the Senate bill and, instead, convene a conference committee to craft a new and improved bill.

This is a recipe for disaster, just when a huge political victory is at hand.

A House vote killing the Senate bill will play directly into Democrat hands. Their talking points are effortless to predict: Republicans spent December 2010 cutting taxes for their billionaire pals. But this December, they hiked taxes on America’s middle class and let benefits expire for millions of our jobless countrymen. As usual, Republicans hand diamonds to the 1 percent and lumps of coal to the 99 percent. Is this what Republicans call Christmas?

If Democrats join a conference committee, they will turn it into a showcase to resuscitate a “millionaire’s” tax hike, delete the Keystone language, and introduce other noisome amendments designed to waterboard Republicans.

More likely, Democrats simply will boycott such a conference committee. Politically, they would be wise to let matters go nowhere, and then carpet-bomb Republicans with class-war rhetoric until next November. Democrats also could echo Obama in blaming “the do-nothing Republican Congress,” (notwithstanding Democrat control of the Senate) for handing each of some 160 million Americans an average $1,000 tax hike on January 1 and killing the unemployment benefits for some 2.5 million long-term jobless people. Such a slam at the middle class would reinforce anti-GOP stereotypes and fortify the Occupy Wall Street narrative. The only thing missing would be Boehner with a top hat and a handlebar mustache that he can twirl menacingly at poor, frightened infants.

It would be far better for the House simply to take the Senate bill, substitute “February 29” for “December 31,” and then send the package back to Harry Reid and his vacationing Democrat Senate. (The World’s Greatest Legislative Body is on hiatus until Jan. 23, 2012.) They then can decide whether to do something or do nothing for the American people.

Speaker Boehner has a perfect and very rare opportunity to pit President Obama and the Democratic Senate against each other while accomplishing key conservative and free-market objectives. It would be an unforced error of the highest order for Boehner to blow all of this on the eve of an election year by asking his caucus to do anything other than approve this simple, priceless, two-word amendment. 

Deroy Murdock — Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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