WASHINGTON -- In yet another sign that Democrats are sure they're winning the debate over extending the payroll tax cut, a party campaign outfit is using the stalemate to mobilize voters.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had already rolled out robocalls and online ads before the House rejected a two-month extension of the 2 percent payroll tax break that expires New Year's Day. Now its counterpart for the upper chamber, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is rolling out a similar effort, even though Senate Republicans voted to extend the tax holiday along with Democrats.
"Extremist House Republicans are simply refusing to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance. That means on Jan. 1, the average middle class family will see a $1,000 tax hike. And 2.2 million people will lose their benefits," says the DSCC in a new online petition, referring to the fact that emergency unemployment benefits also expire that day, as does a provision that stalls a 27 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements for doctors.
"Demand that John Boehner and these extremist House Republicans pass the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension. Now. It's wrong to play politics with people’s lives and livelihoods, but it is especially cruel to do so during the holidays," the petition says.
DSCC ads touting the Democratic position have also gone live on Facebook and Google.
Such campaigns serve dual functions for Democrats by both portraying them as fighters for a middle-class tax cut and highlighting GOP opposition to the popular break. Some Senate Republicans, such as Arizona Sen. John McCain, have even argued that the House position on the cuts is "harming" the Republican Party. The Senate Democratic policy operation cut a video highlighting such opposition Wednesday.
Campaign Democrats, meanwhile, are happy to take advantage of what they see as a political gift from the GOP.
"Our economy will suffer because Republicans decided to play political games rather than do what is right for the country," said the DSCC's Shripal Shah. "Republicans do everything they can to protect millionaires and billionaires, but stand idle while taxes on middle class families go up."
"Republicans are so out of touch, they’re hoping that voters just don’t notice when their taxes go up," Shah added. "News flash for the Republicans: voters are paying attention, and they know that Republicans are to blame for this middle-class tax increase.”
Republicans insist they are holding out for a year-long extension because only extending the cut for two months, as the Senate bill does, creates uncertainty in an already fragile economy. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders have said they will continue to listen to the GOP's concerns, but they refuse to work out a whole new bill in a conference committee when all the House has to do is pass the one that already exists.
The first sign of a crack in the House GOP's united front appeared Wednesday when Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) declared he would vote for the bill passed by the Senate.