WASHINGTON -- House Democratic leaders and prominent party members have grown resigned to the fact that, despite their howls of discontent, the tax deal crafted by President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans will pass as is.
On Thursday morning, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) became the latest member to bend to the emerging consensus.
"You think this bill is going to eventually pass though the way it is, pretty much?" he was asked during an appearance on the Sirius XM Satellite Radio show "POTUS."
"Yes, I do," the Massachusetts Democrat replied. "For one thing, cutting taxes is always popular ... at least, now it is. I regret it because the other thing is this -- in the deal the president made with Republicans, each one got something that adds to the deficit. Now, I do think we need some short-term stimulus. But it ought to be accompanied by a constructive plan for reducing the deficit in the long term."
Earlier in the morning, his colleague, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the incoming ranking member of the House Budget Committee, likewise said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he expects the deal would pass the House even without revisions to the estate tax language.
"I think it's fair to say if that fix is not made, and we don't send it back to the Senate, yes, I think my best guess is that it passes on final passage," he said.
Van Hollen did hold out some hope that the estate tax provision would be changed. But this would be the one chance House Democrats have to alter the tax deal's framework since it was formally introduced. On Wednesday night, Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) requested an amendment from the House Rules Committee along the lines of what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) got in the upper chamber -- replacing the changes in payroll taxes with a one-year extension of the Make Work Pay Credit. Welch and Weiner, however, were turned down.
The net result is more distraught Democratic members on the Hill, but the concerns are as much about process as policy. The House was, in many respects, left out of the writing process of this deal. That may be their own fault -- a vote on the fate of the Bush tax cuts could have been scheduled before the November elections or at any other point during the past decade, including the last four years of Democratic control, but members punted. In doing so, they put more legislative power in the hands of the president.
The same dynamic is playing out in the debate over the omnibus spending bill. While Republicans rail against the inclusion of earmarks, several lawmakers are cautioning against removing the pork-barrel projects, arguing that they are the best way for keeping the legislative branch's power in the budgeting process.
"Earmarks do not add to the spending of the government," Frank said. "First, we set a level for any particular agency. Then the question is, do all of the decisions for that agency get made by the president ... or do members of Congress intervene? I listen to the people I represent on [these] questions."
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