Among the "yea" votes in the Senate's lopsided approval of the Obama tax deal was Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who called it "the hardest vote he's taken." He explains his decision in a short piece at the Huffington Post:
A lot of people are unhappy that the president punted on first down, and I’m one of them. Extending the excessive Bush tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires will explode our deficit over the next two years without doing anything to help our economy. I think it’s simply bad policy.
But for Minnesota’s middle class, struggling to get by in a tough economy, there’s a lot in this bill that will really help: tax cuts for working families, a payroll tax holiday, energy tax credits, and the extension of Recovery Act initiatives that are already making a difference.
And for the Minnesotans truly suffering right now — men, women, and children on the edge of economic disaster — the alternative is simply unacceptable. If we let Republicans block unemployment benefits, even temporarily, there will be a lot more pain for working families, a lot more homeless kids spending Christmas in a shelter or a car.
Franken's reasoning is persuasive, and I think skeptical progressives should think about the human cost of rejecting an extension of unemployment insurance and a payroll tax cut. In the end, our goal should be to alleviate the suffering of the least well-off, and for all of its faults, this deal is a step in that direction.
As a separate point, it's worth noting that since Obama made the deal, the conversation has turned away from the "Bush tax cuts" and toward the "Obama tax deal." If this deal becomes law, I wouldn't be shocked if the White House spends the next two years talking about the "Obama payroll tax cut," the "Obama middle-class tax cut," and the "Obama unemployment benefits." In other words, the White House is beginning to make up for its early mistake of allowing Republicans to frame the tax-cut debate, even as it prepares to extend cuts for high earners.
-- Jamelle Bouie