Late Thursday night, the House passed the $858 billion tax cut deal by a margin of 277-148. The bill, which keeps the Bush-era tax cuts in place for two years, extends unemployment benefits for 13 months, and trims the Social Security payroll tax for many workers over the next year, overcame opposition among House Democrats to a measure reducing the estate tax. In the end, 139 Democrats and 138 Republicans voted in favor of the deal, while 112 Democrats and only 36 Republicans opposed it. President Obama, who negotiated the tax agreement with congressional Republicans, will likely sign the legislation into law later today.
The aftermath of a major bill's passage would be incomplete without commentators assigning winners and losers:
- Obama, says Charles Krauthammer at The Washington Post: "If Barack Obama wins reelection in 2012, as is now more likely than not, historians will mark his comeback as beginning on Dec. 6, the day of the Great Tax Cut Deal of 2010," the conservative commentator declares. After a drubbing in November's midterm elections, Obama, "holding no high cards," managed "to resurface suddenly not just as a player but as orchestrator, dealmaker and central actor in a high $1 trillion drama." The President, helped by Republicans, speedily moved to the center and began winning back independent voters. Don't underestimate this man, Krauthammer warns Obama's opponents: he can now lay claim to Bill Clinton's nickname, the "comeback kid."
- The Whole White House Team, agrees liberal Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly. "Over the course of about 10 days," Benen marvels, "the tax deal made the transition from a crash-and-burn failure drawing the ire of both left and right to legislative success with bipartisan support." He traces the turning point to a Senate Democratic caucus meeting last week in which White House budget director Jacob Lew and senior Treasury adviser Gene Sperling highlighted economic projections and struck a conciliatory tone. "After the meeting," Benen explains, "much of the opposition among Senate Dems withered, and House Dems began to realize they didn't have the backup they'd need for a prolonged fight."
- The Left, argues Prairie Weather, a liberal blog: "The vote pumps the other half of the stimulus into the economy--finally! Not only is that good for jobs and consumer spending, it's good for the left's immediate political future."
- The Economy, states incoming House Speaker John Boehner in a statement on his website: "With nearly one in 10 Americans out of work, acting to ensure no American’s taxes go up on January 1st was critically important. Failing to stop all the tax hikes would have destroyed more jobs and deepened the uncertainty in our economy."
- The Left, asserts conservative Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. In failing to discontinue upper-income tax cuts and make the estate tax provision in the tax deal less generous, she says, the left revealed that it is powerless: "The vote shows that there is no significant support for the tax-the-rich mentality that was the basis for much of the liberal agenda for decades. And it undermines the narrative that Republicans can't make deals or govern responsibly."
- The Economy, notes Sarah Palin in an interview with ABC. Tax cuts should be extended permanently, she says, and the compromise is "a lousy deal, because it creates a temporary economy with even more uncertainty for businesses and it does increase taxes."
- The Economy, If Nobody Spends The Money, adds Douglas McIntyre at 24/7 Wall St. If individuals and corporations save the money generated by the tax cuts, he argues, then the chance of another economic downturn increases sharply.
- The Deficit, observes Kevin Drawbaugh at Reuters: "The tax deal makes the deficit bigger--just the opposite of what bond markets want--and it threatens to move taxes off the bargaining table in next year's struggles over federal spending and raising the government debt ceiling. At the same time, it was expected to give the economy a boost, and if that gets more Americans working, meaningful deficit reduction could be a little easier."
- Obama's Grassroots, declares Sam Graham-Felsen, a blogger for Obama's presidential campaign, in The Washington Post. The President has chosen to "play an inside game" in major legislative battles rather than engage the broad coalition of supporters he amassed during the campaign, Graham-Felsen claims:
During the battle over tax cuts, Obama's grass-roots network, Organizing for America, was silent. An OFA spokesman said that the network would engage supporters when the time is 'ripe.' But many people feel the time is ripe now--that tax cuts for millionaires in the midst of cuts in basic services and a spiraling deficit are unacceptable--and they don't understand why Obama won't let them fight.