WASHINGTON -- The House GOP leadership's decision to draw a line in the sand over a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut has been second-guessed by Republicans and conservatives alike, from members of the Senate to the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
But the most illuminating criticisms may be those coming from former congressional players, who have argued that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is holding a terrible hand and have expressed disbelief in how poorly he and others have managed the debate so far.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, appearing on the campaign trail Wednesday, urged Bohener to cut a deal, saying that presidents win high stakes showdowns with Congress.
"Incumbent presidents have enormous advantages," said Gingrich. "And I think what Republicans ought to do is what's right for America. They ought to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily."
Gingrich's thinking may largely be a product of his personal experience as House Speaker -- though government shutdowns may have higher stakes than tax hikes.
But Gingrich isn't the only one making that broader point. A former House Republican leadership staffer who served just after the Gingrich era emailed The Huffington Post Wednesday night with the following quip:
"These House Republicans are like a bunch of drunk kids who want to take Dad's jag out for a joyride," the staffer said. "There is no guarantee they'll get home safe and there is a damn good chance they'll wreck it. And it's going to be expensive to fix."
These comments are coming from Republican officials who didn't exactly shy away from political fights, having served in what were considered deeply frictional Congresses at the time. But the payroll tax cut debate has tilted the political equilibrium in ways that have made conservatives uncomfortable. And already, members aligned with Boehner are scurrying for a way out.
"[I]f we can't get the Senate sign-off on a one-year extension soon -- in the next few days -- we're going to have to move quickly to extend the payroll tax for a duration of time less than a year,'' said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), according to the Wall Street Journal. "That may end up being two months."