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Liberals' Revolt Delays House Vote On Obama-GOP Tax Bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi with fellow Democratic Representatives Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Zoe Lofgren of California, Dec. 16, 2010.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi with fellow Democratic Representatives Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Zoe Lofgren of California, Dec. 16, 2010.

A funny thing happened on the way to House passage of the Obama-Republican tax-cut compromise.

A revolt by liberals caused a procedural snag, leading to the House's current Democratic management to delay an eventual vote on the legislation until matters can be smoothed over with those unhappy Democrats.

Democrats opposed to the tax-cut deal were reportedly particularly unhappy that, under the rules set for debating and voting on the legislation, they would only get to vote on one amendment.

The amendment would make less generous an estate-tax provision opposed by liberals.

That amendment was expected to fail after which House members would be faced with voting on the Senate-passed bill with the Republican-based estate-tax provision the Democrats find so odious.

Some Democrats were also displeased they weren't being given more time to give floor speeches to air their complaints about the deal and get them into the House record.

Democrats in the leadership didn't sound overly concerned about the hitch. According to a report in The Hill:

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a Rules Committee member and floor manager for the tax bill told reporters that Democrats are "just trying to work out some kinks."

He characterized the decision to pull the procedural measure off the floor as “a bump” and said he did not think the House would have to delay a final vote past Thursday. Yet, he said it was unclear what the next move was, and that Democratic leaders were huddling over how to proceed.

McGovern added: “This is a bump. I think it’ll be taken care of.”

House Democrats were scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon to find a way to move forward. Like McGovern, other senior House Democrats viewed the delay as a minor setback and expected a vote sometime Thursday.

But those same Democrats hadn't publicly predicted Thursday's rebellion either so we can only wait to see what happens.

In an ironic switch, it's now the House where legislation is bogging down after years of House Democrats complaining about the Senate's tendency to slow or derail legislation.

The fight over the tax-cut extension is an instance in which the Senate acted with the kind of dispatch normally seen in the House while the lower chamber is now behaving like the Senate traditionally does.

The delay was spawned in part by the very real anger felt by many House Democrats to their reduced circumstances following the disastrous midterm elections is clearly rising to the surface. They are heading to the political wilderness. But they aren't going quietly.

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.