Legislative statecraft is sort of like a chess game in which you have to think several moves ahead of your opponent, and the Republicans appear to have done that in this deal, which could give them a strategic advantage once again in the coming presidential election cycle.
Now, if the deal is approved, the Bush tax rates will expire at the end of 2012, a year when 23 Senate Democrats, many vulnerable to upsets, will be up for re-election. A number of them will not be eager to vote to raise taxes, especially in those states where Democrats got a drubbing in 2010.
With the Republicans soon in control of the House and in de facto control of the Senate, a well-timed vote just before the 2012 elections could result in making the tax cuts permanent, possibly with additional GOP tax cuts to boot. Will Obama, with his re-election on the line, dare to veto a bill that will effectively raise taxes on everyone? Unlikely.
Clearly, he has suffered significant collateral damage among his base in the party's dominant liberal wing since he gave away the Democrats' holy grail: raising taxes on the rich.
"Watching the tax-cut negotiation has been like watching a car crash in slow motion ... The president's commitment to bipartisanship should not mean leaving principles behind," Justin Ruben, executive director of the far left MoveOn.org, said in a statement.
Labor unions are in rebellion, too. "This tax-cut deal rewards Republican obstructionism by giving the wealthy the tax breaks they demanded," said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.
You would think the labor leader would be cheering the one-year extension of unemployment benefits and 2 percent cut in the federal payroll taxes for workers, which would result in an extra $120 billion in their take-home pay next year, and would have its heaviest impact on low to middle-income Americans.
But no. "The gains for the middle-class and jobless workers in the deal come at too high a price," Trumka said in a statement.
In the real world outside of Washington, though, where an anemic economy makes for daily struggle, Democratic governors like Michigan's Jennifer Granholm and big-city mayors like Detroit's Dave Bing were endorsing the deal.
The latest count shows a growing number of Senate Democrats were getting behind it, too, making a threatened filibuster by Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders futile.
America's experiment in bigger government, higher spending and draconian tax rates is coming to an end.