Taxes for everyone are set to go up on New Year’s Day, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t allow a vote to keep this from happening. Nine of the 12 annual appropriations bills expire on Friday night, and the Nevada Democrat refuses to bring them up for a vote, leaving open the possibility of a partial government shutdown. Mr. Reid wants Republicans to look like obstructionists, but he’s the one saying “no” to everything.
On Tuesday evening, the House passed the Democratic priorities - a one-year extension to the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits - as part of a package that put the Keystone XL oil pipeline on the fast track and implemented fiscal reforms.
That compromise isn’t good enough for the White House, which issued a veto threat. Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the administration wants a different bill that “does not have within it entirely extraneous issues like pipelines and other things.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Reid said, “The House has passed a bill that is a dead duck. D-O-A. Dead on arrival.” However, neither the White House nor the Democratic Senate has bothered to put forth an alternative that can pass the 60-vote threshold.
Over the weekend, House and Senate appropriators from both parties came up with a final $1 trillion omnibus bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, but Mr. Reid won’t let Democrat members of the committee sign off on it. His sneaky strategy is to hold it up, preventing House Speaker John A. Boehner from adjourning, leaving Mr. Reid with the payroll tax bill as-is.
Democrats are tripping all over themselves because they don’t want Republicans taking full credit for extending the tax holiday that President Obama requested, and they’re split on the job-creating pipeline project. They’d rather pay for the holiday with a tax on “the rich.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted Mr. Reid’s strategy from the floor on Wednesday. “The reason we’re doing an omnibus again here on the eve of Christmas is because we haven’t passed our appropriations bills,” said the Kentucky Republican, who explained that the Senate wasted the year with “almost the same number of showboat votes, designed to fail, to go nowhere, just to present a talking point for the president in his campaign.” All the votes for pieces of the president’s “jobs” bill were just fig leaves for a desperate president, who realizes the economy won’t turn around by Election Day and is trying to pin the blame on Republicans.
The House has done its job, so the blame for an impasse ought to fall on the Democratic Senate. Still, the drama is a bit contrived. There’s little chance the current stalemate will end in a government shutdown because Congress will just pass another short-term continuing resolution to put off fixing the problem.
Republicans have shown too much willingness this year to fold under time pressure. After a year of one-sided bargains that led to increased, budget-busting spending, the GOP should stand its ground for once and let Mr. Reid choose between passing the House legislation or temporarily shutting down some nonessential functions of the government.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.