Cantor says no vote tonight. #fiscalcliff— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) December 21, 2012
No action in the House until after Christmas, I'm told. A win for the GOP right flank, but even more so for Democrats. Why? Boehner and Cantor just got embarrassed by their own rank-and-file. They couldn't afford to lose any more than 24 defectors, and apparently that number was going to upwards of 35. Boehner held a last-ditch caucus meeting tonight to make a desperate pitch; no sale. So rather than vote and lose -- the ultimate black eye -- Boehner pulled the bill. But couldn't a handful of Democrats voting 'yea' have solved the problem? And wasn't this idea explicitly Pelosi-endorsed at one point? Of course it was, but Pelosi and Hoyer recognized an opportunity to back their opponents into a corner, insisted on absolute party discipline, and succeeded. In a just world, Pelosi and Obama would both be taking major heat for their cynical reversals. But we're in 2012 America, where Democrats' actions and words don't seem to matter. Which brings us to the question of now what? Well, for starters, radio silence in the House until December 26th, at the earliest. Then we'll either see (a) Boehner and Obama strike a pretty rancid deal -- note well that Boehner's negotiating position is undoubtedly weakened after tonight's humiliation -- or (b) we all go over the cliff. For which Republicans will be blamed, resulting in immense pressure to capitulate in January, once the middle class tax hikes have been triggered. Under scenario (b), I expect we'll see a GOP cave that will make "Plan B" look like child's play. So the "hell no" crowd may have won tonight, but there's a very good chance that they'll be even more furious over the ultimate resolution to this mess. Let's face it: the Republican Party is in utter disarray at the moment. "Let it burn" adherents may get their wish after all, and John Boehner may have to contend with a leadership insurrection within his own ranks. Meanwhile, the cliff awaits. Tick tock, guys. Anyone have a plan that is better than Boehner's and would put conservatives in a stronger position both strategically and substantively? Wishful thinking doesn't count.
UPDATE - National Journal has Boehner's 'brave face' statement. He didn't have the votes:
"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation's crippling debt. The Senate must now act," he said in a statement.
The GOP will now be painted as further right than Grover Norquist (!) on taxes, which may allow Obama to co-opt Bush's tax cuts as his own early next year...while painting Republicans as the pro-middle class tax hike villains. Bravo, everyone.
UPDATE II - One year ago to the day, we saw this absolute mess of a Congressional clusterfark (and subsequent GOP retreat). A year before that, there was this fight. And before that, Obamacare. Dysfunction and bipartisan madness has become an annual Christmastime staple in Washington, it seems. With the exeception of 2009, all of this brinksmanship has been the direct result of Democrats' abandonment of normal, legally-mandated budgeting practices -- and yet the public blames Republicans. That's reality, folks.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography