WASHINGTON -- Many Democrats think House Republicans have given them an early political Christmas present by opposing the Senate deal to extend the middle-class payroll tax cut for two months.
"Without a doubt, this is a gift," a senior Democratic aide told HuffPost, predicting that if the House GOP kills the compromise, Democrats will hammer them relentlessly through the holidays and beyond for hurting the middle class.
"If Republicans block this vote," the aide said, "we are going to spend a month back in every member's state talking about how we reached an overwhelming compromise to extend unemployment benefits and a middle-class tax cut, but that it was blocked by House Republicans, whose only concern all year has been keeping millionaires and billionaires from paying a penny more in taxes."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is so certain that GOP opposition to the deal is a political loser that it is already campaigning on that opposition, launching a website and a round of robocalls targeting 20 Republicans in swing districts.
"If House Republicans block this bipartisan compromise it will be a middle class mugging of $1,000 from 160 million middle income Americans," said DCCC Chairman Steve Israel in a statement.
Democrats feel they are on especially strong ground because most of the GOP senators voted for the two-month extension of the 2 percent payroll tax break for salaries up to $110,000. Republicans in the Senate backed it because they've asked for all the measures in the deal, including language about the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that they insisted on.
Republicans and Democrats in the Senate settled on a two-month deal because they could not agree on how to pay for a longer-term package that would cost about $200 billion. They figured that at least taxes wouldn't immediately rise for middle-class workers, and lawmakers would have gained more time to deal with their disagreements over funding.
But House Republicans have rebelled. They're threatening to vote down the deal on Monday evening, arguing that it should have done more and run longer -- a full year.
"After 39 Republicans in the Senate voted for this compromise, House Republicans have the chance tonight to stop this $1,000 middle income tax hike from happening on January 1," said Rep. Israel (D-N.Y.). "If they fail, their extreme partisanship will have cost Americans money."
For some of the robocalls, the DCCC employed opinionated Democratic strategist James Carville, including for a spot rolling out in the district of Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio).
"Something remarkable happened this weekend -- Democrats and Republicans in the Senate worked together to stop a $1,000 payroll tax hike on 160 million middle class families," Carville says. "Sounds too good to be true? It is, if Representative Bob Gibbs doesn't do the right thing and support it."
Also singled out are GOP Reps. Elton Gallegly (Calif.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Bill Young (Fla.), Tom Rooney (Fla.), Kevin Yoder (Kan.), Tim Walberg (Mich.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.), Jon Runyan (N.J.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Mike Kelly (Pa.), Pat Meehan (Pa.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Tim Murphy (Pa.), Kristi Noem (S.D.), Stephen Fincher (Tenn.), Joe Barton (Texas), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.) and David McKinley (W.Va.).
One senior Democratic aide, who would have preferred to have the issue resolved, nevertheless couldn't believe Democrats' political good fortune.
"This is a great message in small markets throughout the country, where a $1,000 a year means something and where everyone knows someone who'll be dropped off the unemployment rolls," the aide said. "House Republicans are letting their egos cloud their judgment on this one."
Still, the DCCC's counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, tried to spin the argument its way, sending out a statement entitled, "Vacation, All House Dems Ever Wanted."
"House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi is leading her fellow Democrats to oppose any effort to prevent a tax increase on middle class families for one full year," the NRCC argued, although voting down the Senate's two-month deal actually raises the chance that taxes will go up Jan. 1 if the sides cannot agree.
"It seems that while America's families suffer in record poverty, all House Democrats want to do is take the easy way out and vote for a Senate-passed bill that raises taxes on middle class families in two months, just so they can go on vacation," the NRCC argued.