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Keystone showdown looms: is Harry Reid a Senator, or Barack Obama’s Lap Dog?

Here’s the background: the current hot topic of conversation in domestic politics right now is whether or not to extend a temporary payroll tax cut. It’s currently an object of some controversy on the GOP side, largely because it would involve effectively another 180 billion in spending; Democrats were in fact kind of gleeful about that, given that it promised to give Republicans a bit of a problem between specifically choosing between less spending and lower taxes (two things that have been long-term fiscal conservative goals). Unfortunately for the Democrats, they aren’t the only ones that can give their opponents uncomfortable choices: Speaker John Boehner made a deal where the tax cuts would be bundled up with provisions towards hastening the development of the ethical oil Keystone Pipeline. This reportedly will ensure that the tax cuts will pass the House.

The problem here is that the White House has decided that it would rather pander to homophobic, racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and anti-democratic conflict oil regimes abroad – and those regimes’ radical progressive allies at home – than to produce jobs for working class Americans (even the ones that work for private sector unions). The White House has thus announced that it will veto the bill (via @davidhauptmann) if it passes the Keystone jobs program language. Speaker Boehner has already made it clear that he’s aware of the threat, and is not allowing it to affect House business.

This now makes it the Senate’s problem. Specifically, it makes it Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s problem – because there are likely at least three Democratic Senatorspossibly as many as five – who will vote for the pipeline, and House Republicans worked with Senate Republicans to ensure that the latter’s opinions on the precise language and provisions are respected. Put another way: Harry Reid lets this get put to a vote, Harry Reid will likely lose the vote. But if he doesn’t let it get put to a vote, then the Democrats end up being responsible for ending the payroll tax… which will not really hurt President Obama, but will hurt more the already slim chances that Democrats have to keep the Senate in 2012. And if he lets the bill pass, he breaks with the President.

Apparently, it’s that that last scenario that deeply worries him – and the rest of the Democratic congressional leadership. I am not entirely certain why. After all, it’s not as if the Democrats’ absolute – and pitifully one-sided – loyalty to Obama saved them from the consequences of passing Obamacare (and thus keeping the President from looking more like a fool); in fact, it’s the reason why Nancy Pelosi is now the House Minority Leader and Harry Reid is probably going to be the Senate Minority Leader in January 2013. As it is now, Democratic intransigence in passing a budget is going to be disastrous enough for that party in the next election; if I was counseling my former party’s leadership cadre, I’d be telling them to cut loose from this administration right now and try to save themselves from the wreck – and that this is as good a place to start as any.

So I wonder what Harry Reid is planning to do. In fact, I wonder if even he knows.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

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