What's happening today in Congress takes confusion and obfuscation to Olympic levels. House Republicans plan to vote on whether to conference with the Senate on extending the payroll tax cut for working families and unemployment insurance for people who can't find work.
The measures are important enough for the economy that the U.S. Senate passed a two-month extension last week while the parties keep negotiating. Speaker John Boehner then spiked the deal, or if you prefer, his caucus spiked it for him.
Now House Republicans are holding this conference question. From the Hill:
They say a vote to go to a conference with the Senate would serve as a vote against the Senate bill.
Critically, however, it would be expressed as a vote in favor of going to the conference, and not a vote against cutting the payroll tax.
Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) previewed the news for us last night, fresh off a meeting with Democratic leadership, when he told us his Republican colleagues would not vote on the Senate measure. His take?
The Republican leadership is apparently afraid that if the Senate-passed bill came up with all the Democrats being supportive, enough Republicans would vote for it so it would pass.
So what do these people committed to majority rule and transparency and democracy do? They have announced that they're going to use their control over the procedures not to allow it to come to a vote, because they are afraid that there might be out of the 245 Republicans, 35 or 40 who out of sense of survival will vote with us.
The Hill expects the duck-and-cover vote at midday.