The House Republican line on taxes is pretty straightforward: unless President Obama agrees to extend lower tax rates on income above $250,000, the GOP will force higher tax rates on everyone. The problem, of course, is that everyone knows Republicans don't really mean it.
Unlike some of the other recent hostage standoffs, GOP officials don't seem at all interested in pulling the metaphorical trigger. The challenge for House Republican lawmakers becomes one of how best to lose gracefully. Apparently, the "Doomsday Plan" is taking shape.
...House Republicans would allow a vote on extending the Bush middle class tax cuts (the bill passed in August by the Senate) and offer the President nothing more: no extension of the debt ceiling, nothing on unemployment, nothing on closing loopholes. Congress would recess for the holidays and the president would face a big battle early in the year over the debt ceiling.
Two senior Republican elected officials tell me this doomsday plan is becoming the most likely scenario.... Under one variation of this Doomsday Plan, House Republicans would allow a vote on extending only the middle class tax cuts and Republicans, to express disapproval at the failure to extend all tax cuts, would vote "present" on the bill, allowing it to pass entirely on Democratic votes.
That'll show 'em -- Republicans would refuse to vote for middle-class tax breaks to spite those rascally Democrats.
Nevertheless, as a practical matter, this would more or less be a strategy based on Rep. Tom Cole's (R-Okla.) advice that Congress take President Obama's offer on taxes, and then move on to everything else. Republicans wouldn't get the blame for new tax increases, and they'd regain some leverage for the next self-imposed, man-made, easily-avoided crisis.
It seems like a fairly smart move, though GOP leaders will reportedly avoid making it unless/until the rest of the fiscal talks fall through.