Practicing the very kind of political gamesmanship it accuses Republicans of playing, the White House today indicated President Obama would shut down the government if Republican have not agreed to an extension of the payroll tax cut he supports.
“What the president is not willing to do is leave town or allow Congress to leave town without ensuring that 160 million Americans do not see their taxes go up next year, on average $1,000,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “They should pass a payroll tax cut extension, extension of unemployment insurance, and they can finish the spending bill all before leaving on their vacation.”
The government runs out of money Friday, and Congress must pass either a budget or agree to another “continuing resolution” that keep things afloat while work on the budget continues.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to various reports, is signed on the strategy and is intentionally slow-walking a nearly-completed bipartisan budget deal to try to prevent Congress from acting on it until Republicans agree to a payroll tax cut extension Obama supports.
House Republicans are currently trying to move a payroll tax and unemployment insurance extension bill, but Obama opposes it because it would force him to speed up a decision on whether to approve construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada into the United States. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline, but Republicans and some unions say it will created jobs.
The White House in recent days has repeatedly bemoaned Republican efforts to tie the Keystone pipeline to the payroll tax bill, charging the GOP with cynically mixing unrelated issues.
Now the White House itself is playing the same type of game – though on a far larger scale – by holding the entire budget hostage to the payroll tax.
Carney said today Obama would sign a CR, but if he gets a budget instead, Carney suggested, Obama will not sign it.
“What we simply cannot allow is the Republicans to take care of the spending bill and leave town because the absolute effect of that will be a tax hike for middle-class Americans,” he said.