Did Boehner Blink?

September 12, 2010 10:08 am

Did Boehner blink? I think so.

Today on Face the Nation, House GOP Leader John Boehner told Bob Schieffer that while he’d prefer to extend all the Bush tax cuts, he’d be willing to vote for a bill that extended them only for voters making less than $250,000 per year.

Here’s the exact exchange …

Bob Schieffer: “I want to make sure I heard what you said correctly: you’re saying that you are willing to vote for those middle class tax cuts, even though the bill will not include … extending the tax cuts for the upper bracket American.”

Rep. Boehner: “Bob, we don’t know what the bill’s going to say, alright? If the only option I have is to vote for those at 250 and below, of course I’m going to do that. But I’m going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans.”

The backdrop here is that President Obama has been hitting the airwaves claiming that Republicans and Boehner in particular are holding the middle class tax cuts hostage. And Republicans are suggesting that this is only Boehner’s attempt to refute the president’s claims.

Says a Boehner aide: “Despite what Obama says, Republicans are not holding middle-class tax cuts hostage and we’re not going to let him get away with those types of false claims. Our focus remains on getting bipartisan support for a freeze on all current rates, because that is what is best for the economy and small business job creation. Boehner’s words were calculated to deprive Obama of the ability to continue making those false claims, and as a result we are in a better position rhetorically to pressure more Democrats to support a full freeze.”

But that doesn’t make logical sense to me. Not in political terms. It sounds more like Boehner gave Obama an opening, not just for a better policy approach but also for a better political footing to take into the mid-term election.

It seems to me that President Obama would take this statement, suggest a vote on the middle class tax cut portion before the election and say let election be a referendum on the tax cut for upper income earners.

[ed.note: The original version of this post inaccurately sourced the Boehner aide quote above to TPM’s Christina Bellantoni. We regret the error. –jmm]

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