House And Senate Dems Bicker Over Forcing GOP Hand On Tax Cuts

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Are Democrats bickering again over whether the Senate or the House should make the first move on a major agenda item.

Yes they are. Multiple House Democratic leaders tonight were adamant that they’ll put Republicans on the spot for demanding tax cuts for the wealthy…but they’re arguing amongst themselves over whether the onus should be on the House or the Senate to make the first move.

“I do think it’s worth a fight, I do think it’s worth a vote,” DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen said on MSNBC tonight after a meeting with the Democratic conference. “As to whether we start in the House or the Senate, that’s obviously something that we have to figure out.”That echoes, almost word for word, statements from other members of Democratic leadership. They’re reflecting concerns from vulnerable members who don’t want to take another politically juiced vote only to see action stall in the Senate and have to return to their districts without an accomplishment to boast about.

“We’re looking for the Senate to show leadership on the tax cuts, but we’re having our discussions ourselves,” said Xavier Becerra, Vice Chair of the Democratic Conference, in response to a question from TPM after a Democratic leadership meeting this evening.

“We’ll have to see from that point in time, over the next week or so, what happens here and in the United States Senate…how we proceed to accomplish that goal,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer at a press conference this evening.

These are the same caveats Democrats used after Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts and health care reform seemed all but dead. Democrats ultimately decided to use the House and Senate rules to pass a comprehensive health care bill, but not before trading barbs for weeks, each chamber demanding that the other make the first move. The Senate, and its arcane rules, ultimately forced the House’s hand. But House Democrats are perfectly justified to be restless. They’ve repeatedly passed major, controversial legislation only to watch it die in the Senate.

They figured things out last time, but today they have a much smaller window.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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