At a testy meeting last night, House Democrats were in revolt over the deal struck between President Obama and the GOP over extending the Bush tax cuts. “Our guys got taken to the cleaners,” said Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen. “We got screwed,” griped Queens’s Gary Ackerman. “I don’t think the president should count on Democratic votes to get this deal passed,” his fellow Queensman Anthony Weiner warned.
Fortunately for President Obama, he doesn’t need that many, although just how many he does need is still unclear. Despite some wavering from tea party senator Jim DeMint, who objects to extending unemployment insurance without paying for it, Republican leaders expect most of their members in the House and Senate to vote for the bill. And there are probably enough Blue Dog Democrats and Democrats who just aren’t quite so piqued tax cuts for the rich constitute only $120 billion out of the $900 billion deal, after all for the package to squeak through the Senate. One motivator for Democrats: If the deal isn’t passed now, it’s only going to get less tolerable once the new wave of Republican lawmakers are seated next year.
If Obama’s compromise does pass without the support of the DeMints and Weiners of the world, its coalition would reflect the support it receives from the American public at large. According to Gallup, 66 percent of all adults support both extending the Bush tax cuts for two years and extending unemployment insurance. But here’s the chart that really matters for Obama, politically.
Liberal Democrats don’t like the rich-people tax cuts, and conservative Republicans don’t like the unemployment insurance. Only among moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats are extending both tax cuts and unemployment insurance widely popular (the poll doesn’t ask about the estate tax or the payroll tax, however). Looking to 2012, these are the people Obama wants to appeal to. Along with its potential to improve the economy, and assuming that liberals get over it at some point, that’s what makes the deal a political winner for Obama.