It seems members of Congress up for re-election in 2012 aren't hesitating to use their stance on the payroll tax cut bill as a campaign play -- especially the ones looking at close races.
Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached a compromise deal to extend the payroll tax cut for two months, and the bill passed easily on Saturday. But the GOP-controlled House revolted, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted the lower chamber would vote it down Monday night.
On Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) accused conservative, Tea Party-backed candidates of opposing the compromise plan. Targeting swing-state Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.), the DSCC accused the incumbents of "playing politics with middle-class tax cuts."
Flake wrote in an op-ed in the Arizona Republic that "another round of a nickel-and-dime 'now-you-see-it, now-you-don't' tax holiday is misguided." Mack criticized a short-term extension on MSNBC as bad policy. A two-month extension is "not fair to the American worker out there," he said. "We should be able to extend this for a year, no problem."
On the other side of the coin, some incumbent GOP candidates are applauding the spirit of compromise. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) said on MSNBC that reaching a deal "is best for the country." Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) criticized members of his own party Monday, saying their "refusal to compromise" was "irresponsible and wrong," The Hill reports. Lugar is up for re-election in Indiana, a state Democrats have started to eye as a longshot but possible pickup in 2012. He also faces a primary challenge from two candidates running to his right. Brown, the lone Republican legislator in Massachusetts, is bracing for what's sure to be a tough fight against Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Meanwhile, many leading Democrats couldn't be more happy about the GOP opposition to the payroll tax cut plan. The Huffington Post's Michael McAuliff reports:
"Without a doubt, this is a gift," a senior Democratic aide told HuffPost, predicting that if the House GOP kills the compromise, Democrats will hammer them relentlessly through the holidays and beyond for hurting the middle class.
"If Republicans block this vote," the aide said, "we are going to spend a month back in every member's state talking about how we reached an overwhelming compromise to extend unemployment benefits and a middle-class tax cut, but that it was blocked by House Republicans, whose only concern all year has been keeping millionaires and billionaires from paying a penny more in taxes."