We don't get it

It's difficult to see what House Republicans gained with their week of stonewalling on the payroll tax cut and jobless benefit extension. It's easier to see what they lost — any credibility they still possessed on the issue of tax cuts.

The Republicans finally caved in late Thursday, essentially accepting what they should have agreed to in the first place. By the time they did, even Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell had called on them to come to their senses.

McConnell was late to the party. By the time he finally weighed in, the list of conservative leaders criticizing the House GOP included John McCain, Karl Rove and The Wall Street Journal editorial board.

Our own Rep. Greg Walden, a member of the House GOP leadership, was his usual loyal self, mouthing the same platitudes as Speaker John Boehner after Boehner appointed him on Tuesday to help "negotiate" with the Senate.

There was little to negotiate, and few senators to negotiate with, most having headed home for the holiday.

The Senate on Saturday had overwhelmingly approved a compromise bill to extend the payroll tax cut for the first two months of the year. Republicans — including Boehner — say they want a one-year extension. So does President Obama.

But disagreements over how to pay for the extension and other items included in the bill forced Senate leaders to settle for what they could get — a temporary, two-month extension, leaving time for Congress to hammer out an agreement on a yearlong extension.

On Sunday, Boehner announced that House Republicans would not go along with the Senate bill after tea party members of his caucus refused to support it.

Walden is no tea party freshman. He's been around the block plenty of times. He knows well the old adage that politics is the art of the possible.

Yet, there he was on Tuesday, trying to explain why the House GOP caucus apparently had taken leave of its senses.

"I for one am glad the House is back in session this week working toward an agreement with the Senate on tax reductions and unemployment extension with reforms," Walden said. "The House sent the Senate a bipartisan plan to create jobs, take care of those seeking work, and help the middle class with tax relief. Why the Senate decided to instead punt by passing a 60-day Band-Aid and leaving town without any resolution is beyond me."

And yet, the Senate did just that. What was incomprehensible to us — and to many other observers, including the prominent conservative voices mentioned previously — was why Walden and his colleagues would risk handing middle-class Americans a tax increase for the New Year.

House Republicans have fought ceaselessly to protect tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. But when asked to do the same for average workers, they risked scuttling the whole deal because is wasn't done their way.

We don't get it.

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