The Rule for President Obama's tax cut compromise has been pulled from the House floor temporarily. This is a temporary setback and senior leadership aides say there will likely be a vote on final passage tonight. It's unclear, however, if the bill will be amended.
If the bill changes, it would have to be kicked back up to the Senate for final approval before it can be signed into law by the president -- and the Senate has signaled it would not welcome any changes.
The reason for this setback? Sources tell NBC News that the Democratic Leadership did not have the votes to pass the Rule, i.e., approve the rules for debating the tax compromise.
Why were the votes not there?
1. The Rule could have passed with GOP support, however, the minority party pretty much always votes against the Rule, because it's created solely by the leadership of the majority party. It's considered heresy by minority leadership to vote for the Rule if you're in the minority party.
2. The main reason why the bill is delayed is that House liberal Democrats wanted more opportunities to publicly display their anger with the compromise.
As the Rule is currently constructed, there would be a vote on one amendment, the estate-tax language. Liberals were not being offered a chance to vote against other things they did not like in the bill.
For example: Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., offered an amendment that would allow unemployment benefits to be extended from 13 months to 24 months.
There is something in there about pension reform that House liberals do not like.
Bottom line: House Democrats want more of an opportunity to publicly voice their displeasure and have a record of that displeasure.
Also, with the Senate being in most of next week, House liberal Democrats did not see their delaying the final passage of the bill as that big a deal.
What happens going forward?
The House Rules Committee is meeting right now to construct a different Rule that will give House liberal Democrats a chance to vote on more amendments that can show their anger with the bill. This will happen later tonight.
If the bill is sent back to the Senate, final passage on the tax bill likely might not happen until the middle of next week.
The likelihood on all this is that House liberals come around and say something like, "I fought it as long as I could, but I wanted to preserve unemployment benefits before Christmas, etc."
Quite simply: This is liberal House Democrats taking their last loud and boisterous stand.