It's been a banner year for political dysfunction in Washington and the last two weeks of 2011 are closing on a similar note.
This time, the fight is over how to extend the payroll tax-cut, which is set expire on Jan. 1 and worth roughly $1,000 a year to the average American family. Today, the GOP-led House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bipartisan Senate bill passed Saturday, which would extend the tax cuts for at least two month into 2012.
House Republicans are widely expected to reject the Senate version of the bill due to the economic uncertainty it would create. House Speaker John Boehner has called for working towards a full-year extension of the tax cut before the end of the year, which will prove difficult to pass through both chambers of Congress since the Senate has already gone home for the holidays.
"This isn't a meaningful economic outcome for the U.S. economy as a whole.," says Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer of the 2-month solution. "And so you've got a lot of politics being played by Boehner [and] by House Republicans who have a much stronger position than they do in the Senate."
Why are Republicans so inclined to play politics with your economy? A lot has to do with the fact that next year is an election year, say Bremmer.
If that's the case, you can bet 2012 will be filled with more of the same Congressional dysfunction. But regardless, Bremmer believes next year's election is tipped in the favor of President Obama due in large part to the power of incumbency.
Newt Gingrich: The Flavor Is Fading Fast
Despite all the talk that Newt Gingrich was not just the flavor of the moment, he is rapidly slipping in some primary polls. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is raking in some key endorsements, most recently from the left-leaning Iowa Des Moines Register newspaper. (See: Saturday Night Fights: Iowa Debate First Real Gingrich-Romney Battle)
According to new Public Policy Polling numbers, Gingrich has seen his poll numbers slip in Iowa for two weeks straight. Ron Paul now leads there with 23%, followed by Romney with 20% and then Gingrich with 14% of the vote.
"The polls don't matter, what matters is do you have the money? Do you have the network? Can you get the endorsements? Do you have a campaign mechanism? Gingrich has none of those things," Bremmer says. "All the endorsements have been going towards Romney and the entire GOP establishment is going after Gingrich. This guy is going to implode."
Mitt Romney: The GOP's John Kerry
That leaves Romney as the only other viable candidate to date who is able to snatch the GOP nomination.
"Romney is a serious candidate, but he is not a candidate that inspires. And he is certainly not a candidate that gets a whole bunch of unemployed people saying, 'that's the guy for me,'" say Bremmer. "He is kind of like John Kerry, but in Republican clothing."
Whoever does in fact wear the President's pants in 2013, Bremmer is not convinced the America people will see much of a difference in the years to follow. "In all likelihood, the constraints of the American political system and the economic system are going to demand so much from whoever comes in office that I don't really think in terms of actually policy outcomes in the U.S. … 2013 won't look radically different whether or not we get Romney or Obama," he says.
Do you agree? Does the outcome of the 2012 election matter?